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Worried About Vaccine Access in Your N.H. Workplace? The State Wants to Hear From You

Photo of sign saying "Vaccines"
Todd Bookman/NHPR

New Hampshire is hoping to partner with companies across the state to get more vaccines to frontline, low-wage workers and people of color, according to state health officials.Kirsten Durzy, who is spearheading the state’s vaccine equity strategy with the Department of Health and Human Services, said public health workers in some parts of the state have already organized clinics focused on specific industries like seasonal or restaurant workers.

But the state wants to make a wider push to reach more people who might’ve had trouble scheduling time off from work to get a vaccine or might not have an established relationship with a medical provider — by bringing vaccine clinics directly to worksites, rather than asking workers to travel to clinics elsewhere.

“We just want to see if we can identify any place where we can continue to sort of close the gap, maybe find people who want to be vaccinated who just haven’t had access to it yet,” Durzy said.

The state is starting to identify a list of companies that might be well suited to hosting these kinds of clinics, but Durzy said any company is welcome to reach out if they think their employees would benefit from some help getting access to the vaccine.

New Hampshire health officials are also looking to expand vaccine access on several other fronts: bringing more clinics to homeless shelters, faith communities and food distribution sites across the state. Durzy said some food pantries and hot meal distribution sites have already hosted clinics, but there’s room to build on that.

“They're a place where people are comfortable going, they're familiar with it,” she said. “And they may have other additional needs that can be served at the same time.”

These efforts come as data shows persistent racial disparities in who’s receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in New Hampshire, and lagging progress on the state’s goal of using 10 percent of its vaccine supply to reach marginalized communities.

State data shows that the COVID-19 vaccine is not reaching Black and Latino people as quickly as white or Asian people in New Hampshire. As of this week, about 25 percent of Black residents and 24 percent of Latino residents have received at least one dose, compared to about 43 percent of white residents and 46 percent of Asian residents. Those gaps exist when looking at who’s been fully vaccinated, and similar disparities are found across the country.

“We have to be open and honest about the fact that we still have really significant gaps,” said Durzy, who works within the New Hampshire Bureau of Infectious Disease Control. “We’re working to close those gaps, but what we really need is people to help.”

She said people can help in a few ways: They can let the state know about good locations for vaccine clinics, or if they know of a community that's been overlooked in vaccine outreach so far. Or, she said helping out could be as simple as volunteering to give someone a ride to a vaccine clinic.

“We're reaching the point where we really have to get even sort of more creative about thinking about: Who are we missing still? Where are the gaps? And how can we reach more people?” she said.

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Casey McDermott is a senior news editor at New Hampshire Public Radio. Throughout her time as an NHPR reporter and editor, she has worked with colleagues across the newsroom to deepen the station’s accountability coverage, data journalism and audience engagement across platforms.

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