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N.H. Long-Term Care Facilities Begin Vaccinating Staff and Residents

A resident at the New Hampshire Veterans Home receives the COVID-19 vaccine
New Hampshire Veterans Home

COVID-19 vaccines have arrived at New Hampshire's long-term care facilities and are beginning to roll out, aftersome concern about minimal communication and scheduling issues.

Long-term care facilities are getting their vaccines through a federal partnership with CVS and Walgreens. Nursing homes in New Hampshire have been particularly hard hit, with 79 percent of the state's deaths occurring at long term care facilities, the highest rate in the country.

The New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton, an active outbreak location which has recently seen declining active cases and 36 total deaths, said it would start inoculating people Wednesday.

Woodlawn Care Center gave residents and staff their first doses Tuesday. The Newport nursing home was the site of a recently-closed COVID-19 outbreak, where 33 residents and 24 staff tested positive, and four people died. 

Administrator Chris Martin called the arrival of the vaccine "a breath of fresh air."

"I realize it's not going to allow us to turn on a dime or have life go back to normal inside here but it's nice to know that at least we won't have an outbreak that sweeps through 80 percent of the residents and a third of the staff," he said.

Martin said almost every resident wanted to be immunized, but only about 60 percent of staff did. Other facilities say they're seeing similar trends, likely due to misinformation about side effects online, and hesitancy about a new vaccine. 

"There are some downright conspiracy theories...things that have been debunked, like it causing infertility issues, which has been debunked," he said. "Some people got a little spooked because of the new strain in England."

More staff will  get vaccinated when another clinic is held later next month, Martin said.

According to the New Hampshire Health Care Association, almost all long term care facilities in the state have had communication with their pharmacy partner. But some say they're still waiting for official confirmation on clinic dates.

Health officials said this week that they hope to have 100,000 of the state's most high risk people immunized with at least their first dose by the end of January.

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