By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – While the Executive Council’s Republican majority rejected $27 million in federal funds for boosting vaccines, effectively slowing the potential roll-out of clinics for 125,000 New Hampshire children ages 5-11, state officials said believe they can find a total of $22 million from other accounts.
That would leave a $5 million shortfall, but Lori Shibinette, commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services, said she is still hopeful for reconsideration of the $27 million.
She was able to find about $4.6 million in federal funds which were passed by the Executive Council last week. During a press briefing on the pandemic Tuesday, Shibinette noted contracts will come up next Wednesday to stand up those clinics and help regional efforts but also she said she has identified more federal resources to total about $22 million which can come forward for authorization.
The 4-1 vote of the Council rejected the $27 million from the CDC, with Councilor Cinde Warmington, D-Concord, the only one in favor, after protesters argued against taking the money because of federal strings they claimed could impact how the state responds to any federal vaccine mandates. Gov. Chris Sununu said that assertion is false and supported taking the $27 million.
Still, Shibinette said that vote will delay the rollout of vaccinations just as the federal government is poised to authorize vaccines for 5-11 perhaps as early as today.
Sununu said the state is moving forward with a lot of confidence that the vaccines are a safe, viable, and an important way forward for the state to get out of the pandemic.
“Talk to your doctor,” he advised parents.
The state has been having a hard time keeping up with data particularly information on how many people have been vaccinated. But Sununu said it could take a couple of months of verifying vaccine and booster data and that the state is working through a backlog.
Shibinette previously said the vaccination data hasn’t been accurate for months.
Becker’s Hospital Review on Tuesday ranked New Hampshire as having 63 percent of the population vaccinated in 11th place. The state’s incorrect data on the website says 55 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated.
The other New England states were ranked the top 5 for vaccinations with Vermont leading the nation with 71 percent of the population vaccinated.
Dr. Benjamin Chan, the state’s epidemiologist, reported 341 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday and noted that with updates in the coming days the state continues to work through some of the cases that were not reported during the past weeks when the IT system was down.
Chan said the state is really averaging between 500 and 600 new cases a day and some days are more, with an average test positivity rate of 6.4 percent Tuesday.
Hospitalizations are at 190 statewide and four new deaths were reported to a total of 1,572, Chan said.
Chan said that he is very hopeful that kids can start to get shots in the next few weeks. “Many pharmacies have received the new allotment and expect being able to administer vaccines,” soon, he said, and this new formulation is a smaller dose than adolescents received but has been shown to be effective in preventing COVID-19, Chan said.
Chan noted that 45 percent of those episodes have occurred in 5-11 year-olds.
“We are still learning about the long-term complications,” Chan said. “So we want to extremely encourage….getting vaccinated.”
Long-Term Care Update
Shibinette said there are 17 institutional outbreaks in New Hampshire with four new outbreaks reported.
She said she is hopeful that the Executive Council will approve some contracts for school-based clinics when they meet next Wednesday and there may be more contracts with partners to stand up the clinics.
“So the delay will be minimal and readily available in the community in which you reside,” she said.
Despite the delay caused by the Executive Council, “we will find a way. If they don’t reconsider that $27 million we are committed to finding alternatives.”
“It is good money, it is federal money, they are just leaving it on the table,” Sununu said but in spite of “big speed bumps,” he said his administration will find a way around it.