Vaccine rollout

Smaller states like New Hampshire might not be getting a fair share of funding for vaccine distribution from the second COVID-19 relief bill, potentially hobbling their efforts to vaccinate their populations.

As New Hampshire prepares to start vaccinating its next phase of approximately 300,000 people — those over 65 and those with two or more serious health conditions — New Hampshire’s senators are asking the federal government for more money to help in that effort.

In a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and CDC Director Robert Redfield, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan said they think the federal formula meant to fairly distribute money to support vaccination efforts has put smaller states at a “distinct disadvantage.”

Hassan and Shaheen are asking the federal agencies to use part of a $4.25 billion fund set aside for discretionary vaccination costs to bolster funding to smaller states.

In a Zoom call with Shaheen last week, doctors said the process of figuring out which of their patients under 65 have the health conditions that would make them eligible for the next round of vaccinations and making referrals for all those people as the state has recommended will be time-consuming and costly.

Although New Hampshire is preparing to start letting everyone over 65 make vaccine appointments, the state is still making its way through the first phase of people designated for vaccines.

The state Department of Health and Human Services estimates about 112,000 people are in the top-priority “1a” group — including all of New Hampshire’s health care workers, police and firefighters, and residents and staff in long-term care facilities.

As of last week, fewer than half of those 112,000 people had received first doses of the two-shot vaccines, according to state data. Almost 5,000, more than 4% of the 1a group, had received the second dose.

In long-term care facilities, where residents and staff are being vaccinated through a federal contract with CVS and Walgreens pharmacies, just over a third of the estimated 33,150 residents and staff members have received their first doses, and a little over 1% have received the second doses.

CVS and Walgreens are still scheduling more vaccination clinics at nursing homes. Nursing home administrators have reported that nearly all their staff are interested in being vaccinated now, after some hesitancy in the first weeks.

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