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N.H.'s Hospitals, Long-Term Care Facilities Prepare for First Vaccine Doses

New Hampshire's hospitals and long-term care facilities are preparing to get their most vulnerable staff and residents vaccinated soon.

Since the state will only get a small batch of the vaccine in the next few weeks – anywhere from 10,000 to 40,000 doses, according to Gov. Chris Sununu – the state has asked institutions to prioritize the most at-risk people to get it first.

At Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, Associate Chief Medical Officer Keith Stahl said staff who work directly with patients daily, like nurses, physicians and respiratory therapists, are on the list to be vaccinated first.

"We anticipate that the allocation that we will be getting will probably be just enough to cover that initial group,” Stahl said.

If the FDA approves Pfizer's vaccine this week, state officials anticipate that first doses for front-line health workers could arrive in New Hampshire by Monday.

Long-term care facilities are expecting their first vaccine doses to arrive the week of Dec. 21. It will be distributed through a partnership with pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens. Brendan Williams, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Health Care Association, said it's unclear whether the shots will be distributed within facilities, or at outside locations.

He said he's also somewhat concerned about whether people will be willing to get the vaccine - and to take both doses.

"I think there's a lot of, you know, skepticism right now about this science and vaccination and the virus, and there's a lot of misinformation out there," he said. "So I think a big task for us is going to be cutting through all that."

Williams said his association is working on ways to educate residents and staff on how the vaccine works. Sununu also announced last week that a public information campaign promoting the vaccine's safety is underway.

While some experts say the worst days of the pandemic are still ahead, Williams said the state's long-term care facilities are feeling relieved to see a vaccine on the way. More than 80 percent of New Hampshire's COVID-19 deaths have been linked to long-term care settings, the highest percentage in the country.

"It's a godsend,” Williams said. “It's like darkest before the dawn, but we can finally see some light on the horizon. I look forward to the day in which the safest place for an elderly person to be in the state of New Hampshire is the nursing home."

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