By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – Twenty-four fully vaccinated people have died from COVID-19 since Jan. 20, according to Jake Leon, spokesman for the state Department of Health and Human Services.
That represents 5.8 percent of the 413 COVID-19-related deaths since that time. The numbers were reported as of Wednesday.
Two weeks ago, the state reported 11 total deaths in fully vaccinated people as of Aug. 26, representing 3 percent of the deaths since Jan. 20 at that point.
Overall Friday, 54,478 cases identified in New Hampshire included 1,809 vaccine breakthrough cases, or 3.3 percent of all cases since Jan. 20, Leon said.
Leon declined to provide background information to put the numbers in perspective or make someone familiar with the data available to InDepthNH.org to interview.
During that period when vaccinations started to become available, there were 567 hospitalizations reported to the state, Leon said, including 35 confirmed vaccine breakthrough cases, or about 6.2 percent of all hospitalizations.
All of the breakthrough deaths occurred in individuals 60 years and older, with 19 associated with a long-term care facility, Leon said.
Rich DiPentima, former acting state epidemiologist, said the breakthrough case numbers aren’t worrying him as much as how he notices fewer and fewer people wearing face masks and many attending large events as the number of cases and deaths continue to climb again in New Hampshire and across the country.
“We know vaccines are not 100 percent effective,” DiPentima said, adding they do usually reduce the chances of severe illness or death due to the virus even in breakthrough cases.
He said Gov. Chris Sununu is doing nothing that would reduce the numbers and instead refuses to take any action that could anger people who are opposed to masks and COVID-19 vaccination mandates.
“What’s he doing about it? There’s no mask mandate and he signed HB 220 prohibiting mandating vaccines,” DiPentima said.
HB 220 says: “Every person has the natural, essential, and inherent right to bodily integrity, free from
any threat or compulsion by government to accept an immunization. Accordingly, no person may be
compelled to receive an immunization for COVID-19 in order to secure, receive, or access any public
facility, any public benefit, or any public service from the state of New Hampshire, or any political
On Friday, the state announced 388 new COVID-19 cases and five new deaths.
The state’s website Friday said there have been a total of 814 of the highly contagious Delta variant reported. On Aug. 25, the state website showed 321 total cases of the Delta variant, up from 93 on Aug. 9. Three weeks before that there were only 2 reports of the Delta variant in New Hampshire, which is being blamed nationwide for much of the recent spike in cases.
The state website also said Friday only 56 percent of the state is fully vaccinated.
DiPentima said he doesn’t understand attending events like the recent Thunderbirds display in Portsmouth. Even though it was an outdoor event, putting 80,000 people together was risky, he said.
“It’s ridiculous, 80,000 people with the Thunderbirds. I wouldn’t go near that event,” he said.
DiPentima stressed the importance of getting vaccinated and wearing face masks.
“I’m seeing fewer and fewer people wearing masks,” DiPentima said.
Sununu said he expects to join the legal fight opposing President Joe Biden’s vaccination mandates that would require vaccinating all federal workers, businesses with more than 100 workers and healthcare workers in Medicaid and Medicare facilities.
At a news conference Wednesday, Sununu stressed the need for wearing masks indoors and said he gets angry when he sees people not getting vaccinated.
But Sununu also stressed that it has to be an individual decision, not a government mandate.