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$4.7 million for vaccination efforts approved by executive councilors

Executive Councilors Gatsas and Wheeler sit in front of microphones flanked by stacks of papers.
Dan Tuohy
Executive Councilors Gatsas and Wheeler approved today's funding of $4.7 million to help vaccinate young children.

After rejecting $27 million in federal money for vaccine outreach at their last meeting, Republican executive councilors joined Democratic Councilor Cinde Warmington to approve a much smaller amount of $4.7 million Wednesday to help vaccinate 5- to 11-year-olds, who are expected to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine as early as next month.

This article was first published in New Hampshire Bulletin.

That amount represents less than 20 percent of the $27 million the council voted down and will allow the state to do only a fraction of its planned vaccine outreach, said Kristine Stoddard, director of New Hampshire public policy at the Bi-State Primary Primary Care Association.

Stoddard said while the money will help Federally Qualified Health Centers and the public health system administer vaccines to their population of 5- to 11-year-olds – a number she put at fewer than 20,000 – it will not support the more than 500 sites administering COVID-19 vaccines to the remaining 100,000 children in that age group. Also, some of the money councilors voted down would have supported the state’s equity efforts to reach populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Those initiatives were part of a vaccine outreach plan the association and other health care leaders spent months developing in partnership with the state.

“It’s very very frustrating,” Stoddard said. “What is happening is that we are denying information that Granite Staters need to make informed medical decisions that fit their needs and fit the needs of their family. We are erecting barriers to patients that need and want access to care. Parents and caregivers have a right to get information from trusted medical providers. By denying funds, you are stopping them from accessing information they need.”

The $4.7 million is coming from American Rescue Plan funds as opposed to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention money, a change that eliminated a clause in the CDC grant that anti-mandate protesters claimed would have required the state to enforce all federal COVID-19 orders, including a mandate.

Attorney General John Formella’s conclusion that that was a misreading of the clause did not persuade protesters or the council’s four Republicans, who did not cite reasons Wednesday for changing their votes. Although one, Councilor Joe Kenney, said he appreciated the absence of the clause in the new funding.

Warmington asked Shibinette whether the use of alternative funding will reduce other work the state was planning to do with the American Rescue Plan money. Shibinette said it would, including recruitment efforts to fill health care jobs.

Shibinette said her department is seeking additional alternatives for the nearly $22 million rejected by the council. She said she is concerned future pandemic relief grants will include the clause that troubled the council’s Republicans and lead to more lost funding for vaccination efforts.

The state has enough vaccine to meet demand now and when it’s approved for minors. But like Stoddard, Shibinette said adults and children can expect to wait longer for their shots.

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: Follow New Hampshire Bulletin on Facebook and Twitter.

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