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In reversal, N.H. Executive Council approves millions in federal vaccine aid

Jordyn Haime
Wednesday’s vote is the latest successful effort by state health officials and the Sununu administration to push through the $27 million dollars of initially rejected funding.

The Executive Council reversed its earlier rejection of $22.5 million in federal aid for immunization work Wednesday, potentially freeing up money that state health officials say is a key part of New Hampshire’s COVID-19 vaccination strategy.

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The funding, which must still win the approval of the Legislature’s Fiscal Committee, would help vaccine providers use the state’s immunization information system and improve the state’s ability to collect key data on New Hampshire’s COVID-19 vaccination rate, which it is currently unable to accurately track.

The funding had previously been rejected by the Republican-majority Executive Council following false claims from vaccine-mandate opponents about routine language in the contracts.

Gov. Chris Sununu had pushed for the contracts’ approval, and the New Hampshire Attorney General even issued a memo declaring that the contracts would not require the state to submit to federal pandemic policies, including vaccine and quarantine mandates.

But anti-vaccine mandate protesters claimed, without evidence, that the contracts put the state’s sovereignty at risk — an argument that some Executive Councilors echoed in their earlier rejection of the contracts and the money they contained.

The acceptance of the funding on Wednesday included a new, non-binding resolution, condemning vaccine mandates and addressing some of the now-controversial language in the earlier contracts.

New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella said the resolution did not have the power of the law but said “it expresses a statement of intent” and “the council's understanding of the state of the law.”

Councilor Cinde Warmington, the only Democrat on the five-person council, called the resolution a “political cover.”

Councilor Ted Gatsas abstained from voting, expressing frustration at having only received the resolution late Tuesday night and that he had not been a part of the drafting process.

Wednesday’s vote is the latest successful effort by state health officials and the Sununu administration to push through the $27 million dollars of initially rejected funding. Last council meeting, $4.7 million in vaccine-related funding was approved using an alternative source.

The contract approved Wednesday must now be approved by the Fiscal Committee, and the details of the contracts will still need to be approved at a later date by the Executive Council.

The council also approved several other COVID-19 vaccine-related contracts Wednesday, including up to $6 million for first responders helping administer shots.

Dover Fire Chief Paul Haas says his staff will be administering vaccines to kids at the local school. His department also plans to travel around the city, giving booster shots to older residents who may have difficulty leaving their homes.

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