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N.H. Fiscal Committee votes unanimously to take $4.7 million in federal vaccine aid

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NHPR Staff
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The Sununu administration is continuing to look for ways to replace the $27 million dollars in COVID vaccine aid rejected last week by the Republican-controlled Executive Council. But their work got a bit easier after the Fiscal Committee voted today to take $4.7 million in federal vaccine aid.

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“We are committed to finding alternative sources of funds to ensure our vaccine distribution can move full steam ahead and today’s vote allows us to do so,” Sununu said.

State health officials plan to use the money to support COVID-19 vaccine distribution with community health centers and regional clinics.

Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette said the proposal, which relies on money from the federal American Recovery Plan, was tailored to skirt issues of contention.

‘We know that immunization registry topics are really controversial right now. Our priority is getting the vaccines to citizens of our state. That’s going to be our priority. I think you are going to see us come forward with more money,” Shibinette said after the vote.

The money still needs to flow through the Executive Council. Its rejection of the $27 million last week made New Hampshire the only state to pass up the vaccine help via the Centers for Disease Control.

At issue for some of the councilors who rejected the aid was concern that language in the federal grants could force New Hampshire to adhere to federal COVID policies, including vaccine mandates and quarantines, though Attorney General John Formella said the state could accept the federal aid to boost its COVID-19 vaccination efforts without being bound to enforce federal mandates.

Shibinette says one way or another, New Hampshire will need more federal aid to ensure public health.

“In order to continue with a comprehensive vaccine program we are going to have to either ask the federal government to change some of that language or understand and listen to our Attorney General, who says that this language does not put our state sovereignty at risk,” Shibinette said.

In a letter Governor Sununu sent the committee before the vote, he noted that more than 125,000 children in New Hampshire will become newly eligible for the vaccine next month, and pressure on state vaccination efforts will intensify.

Sununu estimated it will cost more than $7 million to coordinate local vaccine efforts over the next year and said without federal money, “state run vaccine operations will come to a halt.”