Phased COVID-19 vaccination rollout moving ahead

CONCORD – While a recent nationwide report shows that New Hampshire is lagging slightly behind two of its neighbors in percentage of COVID-19 vaccinations administered per 100 residents, the actual number of doses given has increased significantly of late, according to the report and Gov. Chris Sununu.

Sununu, in recent comments including those at a 1 hour, 20-minute news conference last week, acknowledges the vaccine rollout has been slower than anticipated, but he’s quick to point out that the state has also been receiving fewer doses than some other states have from federal officials.

“We’re just not getting what we anticipated from the federal system,” Sununu said this week, referring to the number of vaccine doses received by New Hampshire so far.

“But we’re staying right on them on a daily basis … they’re still going to meet the schedule they committed to,” he said, referring to federal officials.

If the number of doses coming to New Hampshire “stays on track,” Sununu added, the state should see notable progress by early to mid-February.

As of last week, the state had received roughly 34,000 vaccine doses, about half of which came in within a week’s time, according to Dr. Beth Daly, chief of the stateís Bureau of Infectious Disease.

She said federal officials have noted that New Hampshire is among the states with the highest vaccination distribution rate, a “promising” sign.

State officials are also monitoring closely the first phase of immunizations – called Phase 1A – which targets people considered the most vulnerable to contract the virus.

Those in Phase 1A, which involves roughly 110,000 people, include high-risk healthcare workers, first responders, and residents and staff of long-term care and assisted living facilities.

A full list of immunization phases and categories as outlined by the Department of Health and Human Services can be found at www.nh.gov/covid19 (click on “vaccine information” at right).

In Nashua, vaccinations of people in the Phase 1A group “is going pretty well, so far,” said Bobbie Bagley, director of the city Division of Public Health & Community Services.

She said vaccinations in Nashua, like the rest of the state, began just after Christmas.

A recent order issued by Sununu gave members of the National Guard the OK to administer the shots at the 13 designated sites across the state.

Nashua High School South serves as Nashua’s vaccination site, Bagley said. Several months ago, as the pandemic continued to worsen locally and nationally, officials set up a so-called “alternate care site,” often called a “surge site,” in the school’s gym, in case hospitals became so overwhelmed with pandemic-related hospitalizations that they couldn’t admit any more patients.

As it turned out, the alternate site wasn’t needed, and was repurposed into the vaccination site.

The process moved rather slowly at first, Bagley said, but picked up speed as National Guardsmen and women became increasingly familiar with the procedure and the logistics involved.

The state, according to Sununu, has partnered with CVS and Walgreen’s to conduct immunizations for residents of long-term care facilities, most of whom are in the Phase 1A category.

Together, CVS and Walgreen’s, as of last week, have held immunization clinics at 56 sites across the state, Sununu said.

Overall, the governor characterized New Hampshire as “one of the more proactive states in getting the vaccine out” to residents, and its plan to do so started with the obvious: “Those at high risk get the vaccine first,” he said. “It’s really that simple.”

The next page in the state’s vaccination playbook – Phase 1B – includes roughly 225,000 people, including those over age 74, medically vulnerable people, family caregivers of vulnerable people, residents and staff of residential facilities for people with disabilities, and corrections officers and staff.

Teachers and school staff, along with childcare providers, and people ages 65-74 are in Phase 2A, while people 50-64 years old will be eligible for vaccinations in Phase 2B. The two Phase 2 groups include roughly 375,000 people.