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State Expands Vaccine Eligibility, With Almost All Ages Ready To Register Next Week

A COVID-19 vaccine site in Concord, New Hampshire.
Christina Phillips / NHPR
A COVID-19 vaccination site at the Steeplegate Mall in Concord, March 13, 2021.

By the end of next week, all New Hampshire residents aged 16 and up will be eligible to register for COVID-19 vaccines, according to an announcement Thursday by Gov. Chris Sununu.

Beginning March 29, residents aged 40 to 49 can register for an appointment, using either the state’s online system or by calling 211. On March 31, residents aged 30 to 39 can sign up. Finally, on April 2, all residents 16 and older can enroll.

“We feel very confident that by breaking it up, everyone gets into the system next week,” Sununu said at a press conference. “We are still maintaining our philosophy of doing it by age, and we are ensuring that we will have enough spots for everybody that wants to come in."

Sununu said, with the anticipated supply of vaccines, all residents should have their first doses of a COVID-19 vaccination by Memorial Day.

The state is slated to receive approximately 45,000 doses next week, including 8,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines. That’s a sharp increase from this week, when the state received around 35,000 doses.

Even as vaccine distribution ramps up, the state is seeing discouraging trends in the pandemic’s spread. COVID-19 cases have been on the rise in recent weeks, after declining steadily since January.

More than 400 new COVID-19 cases were reported Thursday in the state, the highest one-day total in more than a month. And statewide hospitalization rates and average daily deaths from COVID-19 have plateaued over the past week. There have been 82,000 confirmed infections of the virus since the pandemic first emerged last March in New Hampshire, claiming the lives of more than 1,200 residents.

Neighboring states also expanding eligibility

The first doses of the vaccine arrived in December. Since then, the state has widened eligibility in phases. After health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities received their shots, residents aged 65 and up were made eligible.

This month, K-12 school staff, childcare workers and residents aged 50 to 64 were approved for vaccinations. New Hampshire’s timeline for scheduling appointments to those under aged 50 is more condensed than in some neighboring states.

In Massachusetts and Maine, residents 16 and older will be eligible starting April 19. Vermont is taking a similar tiered approach, with residents 50 and up becoming eligible next Monday, followed a week later by residents 40 and up, on down to residents 16 and up becoming eligible April 19. Connecticut, however, also announced Thursday that it will allow all adults over age 16 to begin scheduling appointments on April 1.

To date, approximately New Hampshire 354,000 residents have received their first doses of the vaccine, with 194,000 having received a second dose.

This weekend, the state is managing its second ‘mass vaccination’ clinic at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where it expects to inoculate around 8,000 residents.

Though cases of COVID-19 are spreading in college towns, Sununu clarified Thursday that only New Hampshire residents remain eligible, meaning a New Hampshire driver’s license or other official identification will be required. Students from other states who are attending college in New Hampshire and who lack such identification will not be eligible for a vaccine here, Sununu said.

Several New Hampshire college towns, including Durham, Plymouth and New London, have seen some of the highest per capita COVID-19 rates in the state in recent weeks.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.
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