By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – Although the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19 arrived in New Hampshire Monday, patients and workers at long-term care facilities will have to wait until next week or maybe longer because they are in a separate distribution network, according to Brendan Williams, the president of the New Hampshire Health Care Association.
Williams, whose group represents long-term care facilities, said for the vaccine that is coming this week, the state had to allocate it by Dec. 4. The vaccine could not go to the separate public-private partnership for long-term care, so it is going to hospitals so they can begin using it right away, he said.
“Obviously days count. This virus has us on our knees,” Williams said. “I’m extremely worried for our residents and staff. But I trust that the state is doing its best.”
In theory, Williams said, the first nursing home vaccinations should begin occurring next Monday, although he has heard from facilities that may wait until as late as mid-January.
“We’ll know more when the pharmacies share this information with the state. CVS and Walgreens are the main actors” in the private sector, he said.
It is not as simple as just sending vaccine to a long-term care facility, he said. On Monday, state workers unloaded 12,675 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
Any entity receiving federal vaccine from the state needs to sign a provider agreement and be trained on the Vaccine Administration Management System and demonstrate appropriate storage and handling capability. This is in place for the hospitals.
Because the state is planning to use the public-private partnership primarily, none of that process is set up for long-term care facilities so it was not feasible to provide them the first doses outside of the PPP, Williams said.
“The PPP was set up by the Trump Administration, and, given the scale of this unprecedented effort, I confess to some anxiety as to details and timing – not all of which are apparent to either us or the state yet,” Williams said. “When the pharmacies provide more information, we’ll know whether we can pressure to move up the timetable.”
Earlier Monday, Gov. Chris Sununu issued a news release and photos of the first shipment arriving but didn’t say where it arrived or would be kept for security reasons. His spokesman didn’t respond to questions about the delay in long-term care facilities receiving the vaccine.
Long-term care facilities have accounted for about 81 percent of the 604 COVID-19 related deaths in New Hampshire and are considered a priority for the vaccine.
“Today, the first shipment of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine arrived in the state of New Hampshire. The shipment is currently being unloaded, processed, and prepared for immediate distribution to at-risk health workers, including front line clinical staff providing direct patient care,” Sununu said.
“New Hampshire is ready to hit the ground running to do our part in delivering this game-changing vaccine,” Sununu said. “It is an all-hands-on-deck effort for one of the most important undertakings in the history of our state. The state stands ready to get to work and distribute this life-saving vaccine to the citizens of our state.”
NOTE: Video footage of the vaccine being unloaded can be downloaded here.