New Hampshire begins planning COVID-19 boosters push

·3 min read

Sep. 27—To manage the delivery of more COVID-19 vaccine and booster shots, state officials are planning to use privately run mobile vans and several fixed sites around the state.

The Department of Health and Human Services is asking the Executive Council Wednesday to spend about $14 million in federal COVID-19 relief money on the project, which would run from Sept. 30 through the end of the year.

The contracts call for On-Site Medical Services LLC of Charlestown to provide two mobile vans and for Convenient MD of Portsmouth to operate two of its own.

On-Site would receive $13 million and Convenient MD $1.4 million of the requested amount.

On-Site also would manage five fixed sites that could provide up to 1,400 COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots a day and be open for up to 60 hours a week, officials said.

On-Site's contract calls for the company to give at least three weeks' notice to the state before opening the fixed sites.

"The exact number of residents of the state of New Hampshire who will be served will depend on the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic and interest in vaccination," HHS Commissioner Lori Shibinette said in her request to the council.

Both Gov. Chris Sununu and Shibinette said earlier this month the state would be expanding the use of mobile vaccine vans and bringing them to cities and towns with vaccination rates lower than 50%.

Shibinette said this strategy was effective for Kentucky, which Sununu and other state officials visited last month to see how that state dealt with its dramatic surge in hospitalizations and deaths, mainly from the delta variant.

Sununu said state officials have been discussing how best to manage the delivery of booster shots once they receive final federal approval.

Despite significant spending on a public information campaign, new vaccination totals here have dropped during the summer months, according to the state's COVID-109 dashboard.

Over the past month, 5,115 got fully vaccinated for the first time. In August, the state reported, 5,902 had gotten shots, compared to 11,510 for the period from June 23 to July 23.

Federal advisory panels for both the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control last week recommended booster shots for those 65 years and older and anyone younger with significant health complications.

Vaccine contracts

The CDC panel rejected the FDA's finding that boosters should now be given to "essential workers," such as those in health care and the grocery industries.

The boosters would be given no less than six months after the last vaccine.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky last Friday overruled her own advisory panel, recommending that the Pfizer booster be given not only to seniors and sick younger people, but also to workers in jobs with "significant risk" of exposure to COVID-19.

To emphasize his support for the rollout, Biden, 78, got his third shot of the vaccine early Monday afternoon.

The Executive Council's Wednesday meeting will be at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College in Manchester.

At its last meeting Sept. 15 in Nashua, the Republican-led council tabled two federal contracts totaling $27 million to finance the state's vaccine immunization program.

Two days later, the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee took the same action.

The move was seen as a protest against the national vaccine mandates Biden announced earlier this month, which affected up to 100 million Americans, including all employees of companies with at least 100 workers.

House Speaker Sherman Packard, R-Londonderry, said he has proposed 2022 legislation that, if passed, would prevent state and local officials from enforcing provisions of the Biden mandate.

Some legislative budget writers also objected to using the grants to create 13 temporary full-time positions in HHS.

The two-year state budget Sununu signed in June placed a cap of 3,000 on permanent full-time workers in HHS.

klandrigan@unionleader.com

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