Drill Down: N.H. Vaccination Rates Town By Town
In recent interviews, Dr. Anthony Fauci has described “two Americas” – one in areas with low vaccination rates, where COVID-19 variants are free to spread through a community, and another where high vaccination rates offer protection against the virus.
A highly contagious variant of COVID-19, called Delta, could send low-vaccinated areas back to peak days of the pandemic — where hospitals are full and masks are necessary — while the latter enjoy low case numbers.
Numbers provided by the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services show that New Hampshire boasts one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, but not all towns in the state are not evenly protected. As Delta spreads through New England, Granite Staters could begin to observe “two New Hampshires.”
[SCROLL down for an interactive map showing % rates by town. These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.]
State vaccination sites shut down earlier this month with two-thirds of the adult population fully vaccinated, a success that satisfied politicians and gave New Hampshire the title of 13th most vaccinated state in the country.
But inoculated Granite Staters are not uniformly spaced through the state. Some towns, like Hooksett and Exeter, shot past the state average with about three-quarters of the population getting vaccinated, while others, like Pittsfield and Franklin, have slogged behind with less than two out of every five people getting innoculated.
The data isn’t perfect. This list, provided by the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services, calculates vaccination rate using the population of each town as is listed on U.S. Census Bureau 2019 population estimates, which is a slightly imperfect measure.
The Monitor has also removed certain towns from the list for various reasons such as extremely small populations that inflate or deflate vaccination data and vaccination rates that exceed 100% because of changing Census numbers.
For some local officials, low vaccination rates are still a mystery. Derek Horne is the town administrator in Goffstown, where the vaccination rate is hovering around 38%.
“We've put out information and our fire department has put out information for people on how to get connected,” he said. “I’m not sure what behind that number.”
While community transmission rates of COVID-19 remain low across New England, there is little difference between places with high and low vaccination rates. However, if cases start to rise again— which, Dr. Ben Chan, the state epidemiologist, said he expects in the coming months, differences may start to emerge.
Less vaccinated areas will be more likely to see surges, he said, which will then warrant certain safety measures, like masks.
Some areas in the United States, like Los Angeles County, where Delta has started widely circulating, have already started reintroducing mask recommendations.
During an interview with “Meet the Press,” Fauci said he would wear a consider wearing a mask in some areas of the country, despite being fully vaccinated. He used the example of Biloxi, Mississippi, where 36% of the population has had at least one shot— a vaccination rate higher than Ringe (33.5%) or New Ipswich (30.5%), New Hampshire.
It's not clear exactly what is responsible for widely disparate vaccination rates across the state and even between neighboring towns. Politics may have some hand in the differences — towns that favored Trump in the 2020 election had a vaccination rate about 10% lower on average than those that favored Biden. However, there are several exceptions to this trend. Hooksett, where Trump led by 4 points in the last election, is one of the most vaccinated towns in the state.
Olivia Zink, the mayor of Franklin said she thinks access to shots could have been a contributing factor to her city’s low vaccination rate, which stands at about 40%. Even though shots are now offered at local CVS pharmacies, she said many low-income residents may have trouble finding the time and transportation to travel to those sites.
“Even walking to CVS is not the easiest thing if you’re elderly or disabled,” she said.
Chan said the health department is working to address these gaps while Delta is still uncommon in New England. He said they’re trying to bring vaccines to local doctors and community partners, rather than expecting them to seek out vaccines from the state.
“We can continue to recommend vaccination until we're blue in the face, but there are some people who won't listen or aren't listening,” he said. “For those populations, I think there needs to be more engagement at the community level.
Dr. Michael Calderwood, an infectious disease expert and chief quality officer at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, said vaccinated Granite Staters will be well protected against Delta, if and when it becomes widespread in New Hampshire.
COVID-19 vaccines are still more than 90% effective at preventing severe disease from the Delta variant. To him, it makes more sense to say that there are two Americans rather than two Americas.
“We have vaccinated Americans and we have unvaccinated Americans and the rules are different,” he said. “The risk is real, and still present for those who are unvaccinated.”
INTERACTIVE: HOVER over the town in this map to see its vaccination rate.
Map created by Teddy Rosenbluth, Concord Monitor. Information from N.H. Department of Health and Human Services.
These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.