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Some N.H. Long-Term Care Facilities Say They're In The Dark On Vaccine Plans

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Josh Rogers / NHPR
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Staff and residents at New Hampshire's long-term care facilities are slated to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday through a federal partnership with CVS and Walgreens.

But some facilities say they've had minimal communication with their pharmacy partners, and still don't know when they'll get their vaccines.

One of those is Mountain View Community, a nursing home in Ossipee. Howard Chandler, the home's administrator, said the lack of communication has been frustrating. He believes people in long-term care settings, especially those that have had COVID-19 outbreaks, should get the vaccine sooner since they've been at such high risk.

“Here you have the veterans' home in Tilton with [31] deaths," Chandler said. "You would think that the vaccine would be coming right off the plane and heading right up there to the most vulnerable people, the people at greatest risk, giving them the most immediate protection."

Chandler’s facility is partnering with Walgreens to distribute the vaccine. He said he just found out who their point of contact was yesterday and was given an “informal” vaccination clinic date of Jan. 4, but that date hasn’t been confirmed yet.

“It’s frustrating to us that the vaccine is in the state, but we’re not going to see it for three weeks,” he added.

Brendan Williams, head of the New Hampshire Health Care Association, said some facilities have already scheduled their own clinics, but that others are waiting until mid-January. He has concerns about the transparency of the scheduling process.

“One wonders what the criteria is for scheduling a nursing home in mid-January versus end of December," he said. "There’s a lot of it that’s very opaque that we’re trying to get answers on."

Other states decided to begin getting vaccines into nursing homes before the pharmacy partnership program began.

In a press conference Thursday, Gov. Chris Sununu said the state plans to have all of the highest-risk residents – of which there are about 100,000 in the state – immunized by the end of January. So far, 901 high risk health care workers have gotten their shots.

“The timelines are still just estimates and are influenced by a number of factors outside of our control, including when organizations schedule their clinics,” said Jake Leon, communications director for the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. “Our goal is to provide a reasonable estimate of when we expect to move on to the next phase.”

State Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette said pharmacies have three weeks to vaccinate all long-term care residents and staff upon receiving shipments.

“We’re very confident that they’re going to be able to fulfill their obligations under the federal contract to vaccinate the nursing home, but in any chance that they’re unable to fulfill those obligations, we do have a Plan B already set to go,” Shibinette said.

Walgreens did not respond to a request for comment by time of publication Thursday.

State health officials said 7,800 doses of the vaccine from this week's shipment have been allocated for long-term care settings, and tens of thousands more are expected to arrive in the coming weeks.

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