BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Los Alamos National Laboratory medical director Dr. Sara Pasqualoni on Thursday announced to LANL staff that the Lab is not diverting any COVID-19 vaccines from Los Alamos County.
Pasqualoni said she has recently received several inquiries from Lab staff asking whether the COVID vaccines LANL is receiving from the state are somehow affecting the allocation of vaccines to Los Alamos County and conferred with the Department of Health for clarification.
“First, the Laboratory is certified by the State of New Mexico as a vaccine distribution center. As such, it is certified to receive doses by allocation, independent of the doses provided to Los Alamos County. Therefore, the Laboratory is not diverting any vaccines from the County,” she said. “At present we have vaccinated 500 of our employees following strict state guidelines for the distribution of the vaccine. None of those doses came from the allocation to Los Alamos County. This is according to officials from NMDOH overseeing the distribution of vaccines for the State of New Mexico.”
Pasqualoni said the Department of Health vets and approves sites to distributes vaccine and then distributes allocations to those sites. The allocations to the Lab come from the state’s general pool of doses and are not diverted from individual counties, she said.
“We are working hard to protect our workforce and to assist the State of New Mexico by obtaining the necessary certification to safely store, distribute and administer the vaccine. Our goal is to closely cooperate with the state and County health officials to ensure that we can stop or significantly slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect our community,” Pasqualoni said. “The Laboratory has done everything possible since the start of this pandemic to assist the state of New Mexico with as many resources and as much expertise as possible, whether through COVID modeling, medical equipment manufacturing, genetic investigation of the virus, purchasing personal protective equipment for donation or vaccine distribution, we are and will remain committed to helping the state and our community.”
Earlier this week, Stephen Younger, former director of Sandia National Laboratories, alleged in a column published in the Los Alamos Daily Post that “a sizeable fraction…approximately 100 doses a week” of the County’s allocation of vaccine is “being diverted to Los Alamos National Laboratory”.
“At best, the County estimates that it might receive 350-500 doses per week, so a reduction of 100 is significant for a community with many medically fragile residents. As a national laboratory, LANL should receive vaccine from a national stockpile. A county of 19,000 people should not be expected to prioritize a workforce of 17,000 (employees and contractors), especially since only about 25 percent of those associated with the Laboratory reside in Los Alamos County,” Younger said.