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'This is On Them': Residents Express Frustation With Second Dose Appointment Issues

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State officials are apologizing for a botched rollout of a new effort to get COVID-19 vaccine recipients their second doses in an approved time frame, as many residents say they still aren’t able to book second appointments within the CDC’s recommended 42-day window.

Last week, the state announced it would release additional appointments for those seeking a second dose on Tuesday. But when the federal VAMS website went live at 8 a.m. this morning, many residents were unable to find earlier options. 

[Click here to read NHPR's guide to vaccine distribution in the state.]

“I stayed up all night, I woke up every hour on the hour because I’m afraid of oversleeping and I’m kind of a nervous nelly, and I went in, and I felt like there was a piranha eating up the dates,” said Diane Freedman of Durham.

Freedman had to forfeit her March 26 second appointment in order to search for a new option. She wound up only able to book an even later appointment--April 1--extending her window in between doses to more than nine weeks. 

The CDC recommends that second doses of the Pfizer vaccine be given 21 days after the initial dose, while the Moderna vaccine is ideally administered 28 days later. While exact dosage spacing isn’t necessary, the CDC says it has no data on vaccine efficacy when the second dose is administered more than 42 days after the first dose.

State health officials say they are aware of the issues and are working to update the scheduling system.

“The opportunity for individuals to move up their second dose appointment in the federally run CDC website has not gone as smoothly as planned, and we apologize for the inconvenience and confusion,” Perry Plummer, who is helping direct the state’s vaccination roll out, said in a statement.

“The State is continually adding new, additional second dose appointments over the next 24-48 hours to ensure that individuals are able to receive their second dose within a week of their recommended date.”

The CDC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about the VAMS technical issues.

Debra Woodward of North Hampton also faced a lack of earlier appointments Tuesday. Woodward cancelled her second appointment, originally scheduled 57 days after her first, but was unable to find an earlier appointment. Rather than book a later date, she’s holding out for the state and federal government to upload new appointments. 

“They should have been ready for all of these people to get online,” said Woodward. “This is on them. They have to fix this.”

It appears some residents were able to successfully book earlier appointments.

Donna Ferlito-Brown received her first shot in Exeter last week, but wasn’t able to schedule a second appointment until April 1. This morning, Ferlito-Brown said she was able to book a February 19 appointment in Nashua, “which is great.”

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