Sununu on vaccines: ‘You can’t tell me a 30-year-old teacher should be put ahead in the line of a 69-year-old grandparent’

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CONCORD, NHDespite teachers asking to be moved up in the vaccination cue, it will be seniors and a few others with April appointments for first shots invited to a mass vaccination event at NH Motorspeedway in Loudon this weekend, said Gov. Chris Sununu.

Sununu explained his reasoning on this and a variety of other issues – including a controversial bill aiming to ban “divisive” training on sex and race and division at the statehouse – during a recent interview on NH PBS’ digital public affairs show, The State We’re In.

The vaccination event is by appointment-only with invites offered to people in Phase 1B which includes individuals (65 years+) and some others with co-morbidities who have appointments in April. Sununu explained that having the large-scale event will allow the state to vaccinate as many as 10,000 people over three days. When asked if teachers would be included in that group, he said no. Later, during a discussion on the March 8 deadline he set for schools to at least partially re-open, Sununu held firm that teachers don’t need to be vaccinated in order for schools to reopen, a view also held by the CDC. He said the state has to prioritize the most vulnerable. 

“You can’t tell me a 30-year-old teacher should be put ahead in the line of a 69-year-old grandparent,” Sununu said. “That 69-year-old grandparent is at risk of dying 100 times more than that teacher is. So you have to vaccinate the most vulnerable first. Period. End of Story. Either you are the most vulnerable population or you care for the most vulnerable population.”

Sununu commended the schools that have been able to open to some or all in-person learning already this year and alleged it was the teachers union that were fighting it.

That said, he acknowledged it’s possible that teachers may end up getting vaccinated sooner than expected anyway with the rate the state is moving with vaccinations.

“My guess right now is we’re going to get to group 2A faster than we thought, just because the administration of the vaccine is going so well.” Sununu said teachers may even get their vaccine in late March or the first week of April.

Melanie Plenda of Granite State News Collaborative, left, talks with Gov. Chris Sununu about the latest vaccination news during an episode of The State We’re In. Screenshot/NHPBS

HB 544 and Division at the Statehouse

During the interview, Sununu said he would not sign HB 544– a controversial bill aimed at prohibiting public employees and schools from using dialogue in trainings and curriculum that teaches “divisive concepts,” on race or sex — if it came to him. 

“No, no, no,” he said. “Bills that start restricting free speech–I might not like what people say, I might not like the language, and I can go and talk about that in my kid’s school, or in my communities, but you don’t start doing it with a ‘government is going to say you can’t say certain things,’ that is ripe for a lot of bad gray area, if you will, a lot of bad interpretation and it just sends us down the wrong path.” 

Sununu also addressed the divisions in the New Hampshire legislature which included an episode last week where Democrats walked out during a vote on an abortion bill. Republicans reportedly then locked them out and took a vote on the bill. After calling the Democrats’ move to leave “bizarre” He added, “Just because you don’t like the way a vote is going or just because you don’t like how a debate is turning out, you can’t as an elected official just say, ‘I’m not going to do my job, I’m done, I’m tapping out.’ Your constituents elected you. You’re doing a disservice to all those constituents who said you need to have a voice and cast a vote.”

As for how he plans to get things done in spite of the divisions, Sununu said, “Needless to say, the best you can do from a governor’s standpoint is lead by example.”

– Melanie Plenda contributed to this report


These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org