CONCORD — Teachers, school staff and anyone over 50 can start signing up this month to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and all could get their first shots by the end of April, as the state accelerates its vaccination timetable.
“This is all because frankly, we are going so fast,” Gov. Chris Sununu said Thursday.
Sununu said in the past month, the number of weekly doses has shot up from 13,000 to 42,000.
Ramped-up delivery of COVID-19 vaccines prompted Sununu to move up the starting dates for Phase 2A (teachers and staff) and Phase 2B (anyone over 50).
Teachers and staff in school districts working with public health networks can get their shots starting March 12 at vaccination clinics. Other teachers can start signing up on their own March 17, and their appointments will begin March 22.
Those over 50 can start to sign up March 22, and their appointments would start March 25, Sununu said.
“I didn’t think we were going to get to (Phase) 2B until like May,” Sununu said. “We are just going to continue to get vaccines into arms as quickly as we can get it.”
The state has given the first dose to 17% of the population (235,000), and 8% (105,000) have gotten both doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, according to Dr. Beth Daly, director of the state’s infectious disease bureau.
All over 65 or the “medically vulnerable” with an April appointment have been offered an earlier appointment, Sununu said.
“Some have chosen to keep the later appointment and that’s fine,” Sununu said. “We weren’t sure how many folks would be willing to move up from April. Now we know, and that contributes to how we can move the timeline up for these next phases.”
Earlier this week, President Joe Biden predicted every American who wants a vaccine will get a shot by the end of May. Sununu wasn’t quite as bullish.
“I hope that is possible. That sounds pretty bold if you are talking everyone, 16 to 65, in the next three months. I think late spring, early summer is a good guess,” Sununu said.
‘Disappointed’ with Biden
The governors of Texas and Mississippi announced earlier this week they would be “reopening 100%” and soon eliminating their mask requirements. The Alabama governor extended her state’s mask mandate to April 9 but said it won’t go any longer than that.
Sununu criticized Biden for referring to lifting these restrictions as “Neanderthal thinking.”
“I was very disappointed with the president’s comments. There shouldn’t be any name-calling like that,” Sununu began.
The governor said he would further relax restrictions if the trend of hospitalizations and fatalities continues to go down in the coming weeks.
“As all of those start to marry together in the next two weeks, I think we will be able to make more announcements to more fully flex things,” Sununu said.
In the past week, the state averaged 200 to 250 new cases a day — about 100 fewer per day than a month ago, said state epidemiologist Benjamin Chan.
The number of hospitalizations fell below 100 for the first time since November.
Three deaths were announced Thursday, but the 15 fatalities in the past week were in contrast to 50 per week a month ago.
Starting Friday, the state will reach out to schedule vaccine appointments for those who are homebound and don’t receive services from a visiting nurse association or other home care provider.
The homebound with a health care provider relationship will be contacted by those agencies to make their own appointments for someone to drive to their residence to give them a shot, said Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette.