Open Letter to Gov. Sununu: We need a plan to vaccinate NH’s 20K temporary residents living in college communities

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Dear Governor Sununu,

We write on behalf of our respective communities seeking the opportunity to work with you, the NH Department of Health and Human Services, and the colleges/universities we host to develop a plan to include the extension of vaccinations to roughly 20,000 temporary New Hampshire residents who are densely congregated and interspersed with our residents in several college communities throughout the state.  You and your public health team have emphasized the importance of vaccinating as many people as possible, as soon as possible, and we agree.

Collectively our municipalities host the following colleges/universities:  Manchester – Granite State College; University of New Hampshire, Manchester;  New England College; Southern New Hampshire University; Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences; Saint Anselm College; Franklin Pierce University; Manchester Community College.  Nashua – Rivier University; Hellenic American University; Granite State College; Nashua Community College.  Hanover – Dartmouth College.  Henniker – New England College.  New London – Colby-Sawyer College.  Plymouth – Plymouth State University.  Keene – Keene State College.  Durham – University of New Hampshire, Durham.

You have noted the logistical difficulties of administering the vaccine, particularly the two-dose vaccines, to the college population given the time remaining in the spring semester. This will no doubt be a challenge, but it is one we hope to have the opportunity to address with the colleges/universities we host. Over the last year, the state’s colleges and universities have demonstrated their ability to rise to meet the demands of the pandemic. We believe, working together collectively and with your support, that we can do so in this case in a way that appropriately utilizes the state’s vaccine supply to enhance the public health of our individual communities, our regions, and New Hampshire as a whole.  We know that the first dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines provide enhanced immunity to the COVID-19 virus and decreases the chance of serious infection.  The Johnson & Johnson “one shot and done” vaccine offers full protection just 14-days following inoculation.

Two key points are relevant for consideration:

  1. The U.S. Census counts all college students residing in a community while attending school, irrespective of their home state, as NH residents.  We understand that the vaccine is distributed to U.S. states on a pro-rated, per capita basis.  This means that the number of college students from other states attending school in NH have been included in NH’s vaccine allocation.
  2. We note on the NH.Gov COVID webpage that if NH students attending college or university elsewhere obtained their first shot out of state, they are eligible to obtain their second shot in NH.  Why do we not extend the same courtesy to out-of-state students that other states have extended to our own students?

Throughout the pandemic, you and your fellow New England and Northeastern governors have endeavored to work across state lines to address the public health crisis as a well-coordinated region. We are hopeful that coordination can continue on this issue so that we do not inadvertently create a patchwork of regulation that makes it unnecessarily difficult for our college student population to obtain a vaccine. The logistics of students leaving the state for vaccinations and returning to our communities creates the potential for increased spread of the virus among our citizens. Many college students, including international students, those working or pursuing internships within the region, and those enrolled in summer courses, do not leave our communities during the summer and would be stuck in limbo if not allowed access to vaccinations.

Any effort we can make to vaccinate all of our local population, including college/university students – who live, work and participate in the economies of communities around the state – will be a benefit to New Hampshire and all of our residents. We are all too aware that many of the new COVID-19 cases reported in New Hampshire do link back to students on the campuses in our communities. Despite intensive and ongoing public health campaigns and masking requirements, we expect controlling case counts will continue to be a challenge for the remainder of the semester.  Controlling the spread of the virus on our campuses will have an immediate beneficial impact on others in the community who may interact with college/university students in the grocery store, at the local pharmacy, in our restaurants and commercial/retail establishments, and will be critical to reducing the state’s overall case count.

We thank you for your consideration concerning this important issue.

Sincerely,

  • Joyce Craig, Mayor of Manchester
  • Jim Donchess, Mayor of Nashua
  • Julia Griffin, Town Manager, Hanover
  • Joseph Devine, Town Administrator, Henniker
  • Kimberly Hallquist, Town Administrator, New London
  • Kathy Lowe, Town Manager, Plymouth
  • Elizabeth Dragon, City Manager, Keene
  • Todd Selig, Administrator, Durham

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