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The rollout of booster shots is skewing New Hampshire's data on first and second vaccine doses

Picture of vaccine vial
Wikimedia Commons
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The state’s daily report of first and second COVID-19 vaccine doses has been an important tool for assessing risk and targeting vaccine outreach. That count will become less accurate and perhaps less useful with the rollout of boosters.

This story was first published in New Hampshire Bulletin.

The state knows some booster shots are being included in the state’s vaccination rate but not how many. And public health officials have it as first and second doses – not boosters – that must be prioritized and tracked to overcome the pandemic.

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“One of the big concerns that I’ve had is that there hasn’t been any real uptake in the vaccination since the end of June,” said Mindi Messmer, co-founder of N.H. Science and Public Health, which has been tracking the state’s vaccination program. (The fully vaccinated rate was 54.6 percent as of Thursday, the most recent data available.) “If the boosters are being incorporated into that number, those are the people who have been fully vaccinated. It’s not the hesitant people. There’s not going to be a clear understanding of how many people are actually vaccinated. It skews our understanding.”

The problem lies with those giving boosters, including pharmacies, because they are reporting all third doses to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but some are not reporting counts to the state, said state epidemiologist Dr. Ben Chan. And unlike some states, including Massachusetts, New Hampshire’s COVID-19 dashboard does not break out the booster counts it does know about.

“We’re having a little bit of difficulty nailing down exactly how many booster doses have been administered in New Hampshire,” Chan said.“… It’s something we’re actively trying to work on.”

The CDC communications office did not return a message. Its website tracks booster doses given in the United States (9.32 million as of Friday), but does not report that data at state, county, or local levels.

Pfizer boosters became available in mid-August for those over 65, people at high risk, and those working in settings with more exposure to the virus who had received their second dose at least six months prior. More boosters are coming.

The Food and Drug Administration’s panel of expert advisers voted, 19-0, Thursday to recommend booster shots for the same population who received the Moderna vaccine. It did the same with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine Friday for anyone over age 18 at least two months after their shot.

New Hampshire Bulletin is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. New Hampshire Bulletin maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Dana Wormald for questions: info@newhampshirebulletin.com. Follow New Hampshire Bulletin on Facebook and Twitter.