By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – Facing mounting criticism about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, Gov. Chris Sununu responded with no new details and an emailed comment from Perry Plummer, who is in charge of the vaccine distribution.
On Tuesday, state Sen. Cindy Rosenwald, D-Nashua, called on Sununu to open an investigation into what went wrong with the opening of the vaccine portal.
Sununu’s spokesman Ben Vihstadt didn’t respond when provided links to the New York Times accounting of the vaccine rollout showing 60 percent of received doses have been administered in New Hampshire and 7.4 percent of the population has received at least one shot.
Becker’s Hospital Review ranked New Hampshire 39th out of all the states for the 60 percent of vaccine having been administered.
Maine had 8.4 percent of the population vaccinated and 69 percent of the vaccine administered, and Vermont 8.6 percent of the population vaccinated and 73 percent of the doses administered, the Times reported.
InDepthNH.org provided Vihstadt with summaries of all of the criticism it has received, but Vihstadt refused to provide any details beyond a comment.
“Here’s a comment you can attribute to Perry Plummer,” Vihstadt wrote in an email. “The opportunity for individuals to move up their second dose appointment in the federally run CDC website has not gone as smoothly as planned, and we apologize for the inconvenience and confusion. The State is continually adding new, additional second dose appointments over the next 24-48 hours to ensure that individuals are able to receive their second dose within a week of their recommended date.
“We are staffing up the COVID Call Center to handle the influx of calls into 2-1-1, and ask that individuals please remain patient as we work to guarantee everyone their second dose in a timely manner.”
Rosenwald said the complaints started minutes after the vaccine portal opened.
“I received a number of complaints from constituents who said they were experiencing issues with the website and were unable to schedule their second dose of the COVID vaccine, even though they had cancelled a previous appointment,” Rosenwald said. “Many of the Granite Staters registering today are elderly and were counting on the state’s system to work. Instead, they are anxious and upset, forced to deal with technical issues and canceled appointments, putting them further away from getting the lifesaving vaccine.”
Rosenwald asked Sununu to hold a briefing on what went wrong, and open an investigation.
Dr. Pan Van der Laan of Lancaster said he got his vaccine on Jan. 30 after having his appointment abruptly cancelled at Littleton Regional Hospital which he later learned was only originally scheduled to vaccinate employees.
“My wife and I were grateful, BUT…What disturbs me is the number of people who were cancelled (as we were) on 1/28 by LRH (or VAMS) who did NOT get the vaccine this weekend. Apparently, the list given to LRH had 1,600 names, for 350 doses! Not sure what caused this snafu, and have not heard a reasonable explanation,” Van der Laan said.
“Some folks are mighty upset, and appear to have no recourse. Many have now rescheduled their vaccination dates via VAMS, but not until April and May, the earliest appointments available.”
Some states have given more than 80 percent of distributed doses while New Hampshire has given 60 percent, he said.
“We should be doing MUCH better,” Van der Laan said.
Rep. Marjorie Smith, D-Durham, said she was snookered.
Based on the governor’s statement that dates for the second appointment would be available as of today, the site said she had to cancel her March 24 appointment to make an earlier one for her second shot, but once she cancelled there were no appointments available, Smith said.
“I am now without any second appointment — not the three weeks suggested by CDC, nor the eight weeks that had been scheduled, nor anything else,” Smith said.
Steve Rand of Plymouth said last Tuesday he helped at a vaccination clinic held by the Plymouth Senior Center as a volunteer with the Plymouth Rotary Club.
The Center’s director had made appointments from the Senior “underserved community” for about 200 people to come for shots, Rand said. There was a confirmed list and a standby list in which people had no specific time to show up.
At 10 a.m. there was a huge bunch of cars waiting their turn with one to four occupants, he said. “We finished at about 3. The main problem was not with the seniors’ willingness to wait, but with their bladders. We’ll have to do better next time,” Rand said.
There were five or six left-over shots, but the director called people on the standby list and “we finished up all the serum exactly,” Rand said.