CONCORD, NH– Teachers, school staff, and daycare workers can expect to be vaccinated against COVID-19 – some as early as March 12 – rather than waiting until April and May due to increased availability of COVID-19 vaccines and the rapid delivery of vaccines to date, state officials said at Thursday’s news conference.
Gov. Chris Sununu said, “Things are moving very, very quickly in the state in terms of vaccinating people, now…We are getting vaccines out very, very quickly in New Hampshire,” with more vaccines coming into the state each week, Sununu said.
The state is now at the point where anyone in the current Phase 1B with an April appointment can call 2-1-1 to have their appointment moved up, Sununu said.
“We know it has been very successful. We are way ahead” of projected dates for vaccinations, Sununu said.
He said that Phase 2A was initially expected to begin in early April, with some teachers’ unions calling for their members to be moved up to an earlier phase to keep schools open. Sununu said as early as next Friday the state will begin its efforts with regional public health networks working with school officials to administer vaccines in a closed pod clinic.
There are areas where local clinics are not possible and he said that is where the state will move in to provide vaccination services.
He said state-hosted vaccination clinics will begin March 17 with open registration through the new state-run scheduling system. There, teachers can go on to one-stop shopping to get those registrations with the actual vaccines being delivered into arms on March 22.
He noted that the federal vaccine partner, Walgreens pharmacy chain, will help and allow for even more appointment spots to become open.
The next phase after Phase 2A will be to vaccinate those in Phase 2B. That phase includes people who are 50 years old and older. They can make appointments on March 22 with the first appointments expected on March 25.
“This is all great news and if we get more vaccines we can move people up,” Sununu said. He said he feels confident that the state can meet these dates as a minimum.
He said on Thursday the state is rolling out a vaccine update on its dashboard at nh.gov/covid. It will include daily updates and the number of fully vaccinated individuals.
So far, eight percent of the population has been fully vaccinated and 17 percent of residents have received at least their first of two vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer.
So far 340,000 vaccines have been administered, said Dr. Beth Daly, chief of the state’s Bureau of Infectious Disease Control.
Loudon Super Site
As many as 12,000 people may be able to be vaccinated this weekend alone at a super site at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, with most all appointment slots already taken. Originally, the hope was for 10,000 vaccinations to be administered at the track.
The one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine which arrived this week will be used at the Loudon site which will be staffed by more than 300 workers. People will sit in their cars waiting to be vaccinated on the track.
People are asked to arrive no more than 15 minutes ahead of their appointment and noted no one should come if they do not have an appointment and are in Phase 1B which is largely individuals age 65 and older.
Sununu said the next phase, 2B, involves about 50,000 people who care for children in K-12 schools and daycare centers statewide.
Sununu said the Biden Administration has been confusing on this subject, urging states to move up that group, but Sununu said that was not part of the decision on the timing on the vaccines for teachers and staff. It is about the availability of vaccines sent to the state and the efficacy of the state’s response to get those shots into people’s arms as soon as possible, he said.
President Joe Biden’s prediction of everyone having a vaccine by the end of May is optimistic, he said, at least in New Hampshire, but possible. More likely, Sununu said it would be by the beginning of the summer.
“This is a marathon. We are at mile 23 of a 26-mile marathon. Sometimes you have to work the hardest,” at the end, Sununu said.
He urged people to continue with social distancing, wearing face masks and avoiding large group gatherings, and rejected the idea of dropping the statewide mask mandate as other Republican governors in Texas and Mississippi announced this week.
State officials also announced plans for vaccinations of homebound people. Those who don’t have a home care provider, like the VNA or a home health aide, should call 2-1-1 as early as Friday to get an appointment. People will come to their homes to vaccinate them.
Those who are homebound and do have an agency working with them do not need to call, as the state already has their information. Officials said this effort will take longer because of the time and distance between appointments at people’s homes.
State epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan said the state continues to see improved downward trends on the virus in almost all metrics. Chan said the state recorded 231 new cases of the virus on Thursday and is averaging 200 to 250 new cases a day this week, down from last week.
There were three new deaths reported Thursday, totaling 1,178 fatalities in New Hampshire caused by the virus.
None of the new deaths were related to long-term care facilities. In total, about 15 people have died this week compared to about 50 several weeks ago.
Hospitalizations continue to decline related to the virus, with 92 reported cases as of Thursday, up slightly from Wednesday.
Chan said he was “excited we now have three different COVID-19 vaccines to distribute” and noted that all three of these vaccines are effective at reducing transmission and all have been shown to be highly effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and deaths.
Chan urged people not to vaccine shop by brand.
“We are recommending people be vaccinated as quickly as possible,” Chan said and wanted to advise against waiting for a particular vaccination.
Lori Shibinette, commissioner of the state Department of Health and Human Services, said the statistics are also good.
The state closed outbreaks at two long-term care facilities this week and opened one at the Hillsborough County House of Correction, also known as the Valley Street Jail, which had a previous outbreak. She said there are currently 19 incarcerated individuals and two staff cases.
In all now, only four long-term care facilities are in outbreak status with more than three individuals sick with the virus.
Dr. Daly said to date 340,000 doses have been administered with 235,000 receiving the first dose of a two-dose vaccine and 105,000 receiving both the first and second dose.
This week, 50,000 doses were administered at 26 vaccination sites across the state including 15,000 that are coming through Walgreens.
The state’s equity allocation program continues to grow and allows for populations including homeless and low-income individuals to get access to the vaccines, she said.
The state may be able to continue its efforts to expand broadband across the state with more federal help, the governor said. Some CARES Act funding was used to provide for expanded access particularly to rural areas which will help with online learning and telehealth visits. But there may be more money coming to the state which does not have a deadline to use the money, Sununu said.
The governor said it is not practical to simply close the Sununu Youth Services Center in Manchester, responding to calls for him to do so. And he said that an investigation into abuse there should continue and that justice should be served.
He said when he came into office four years ago there were 50 or 60 kids with behavioral health problems at the program and “from the beginning we worked hard to get more community services.” Now he said there are about a dozen youths in the facility.
The solution has been more community-based settings rather than the institution, he said. There are some youths who are still at the center because they pose a threat to themselves or the community.