The COVID-19 Vaccine Is In New Hampshire. One Month In, Here’s What We Know | New Hampshire Public Radio

The COVID-19 Vaccine Is In New Hampshire. One Month In, Here’s What We Know

Jan 5, 2021

The first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine arrived in New Hampshire in mid-December, with the Moderna vaccine arriving soon after - marking a turning point, but not the end, of the COVID-19 pandemic. Doctors say they’re beginning to feel excitement, and a bit of relief.

Click here for FAQs: What you need to know about coronavirus in New Hampshire

“I think the timing couldn't be better from the sense of the exhaustion of our health care workers,” said Cass Walker, vice president of administrative and support services at Lakes Region General Healthcare. “The stress is extreme and the staffing continues to be a struggle for all of us. So it’s just a ray of sunshine and a ray of hope.”

As the state and the country continue the monumental effort of immunizing people, here are answers to some questions you might have about the vaccine.

Note: Bookmark this page - it will be updated.

 How many doses of the vaccine are available in New Hampshire?

According to the latest data from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, 86,275 doses have been distributed to vaccination sites, and 53,402 have been administered to people. 

Officials have said about 18,000 more doses are expected each subsequent week for now.

For the latest vaccine data, which is being updated by the state weekly, visit our COVID-19 data tracker

Who has been vaccinated so far?

We’re currently in “phase 1a” of the state’s vaccination plan, which includes people considered the most at risk for COVID-19: health care workers, first responders, and people associated with long-term care settings. 

According to state data, 53,402 of them have been vaccinated as of Jan. 14, out of over 100,000 total people included in that group. That includes:

  • 7,283 people associated with the pharmacy partnership program for long-term care facilities;
  • 21,144 people associated with hospitals;
  • 9,580 people who were vaccinated at state-managed vaccination sites (like first responders and other health workers);
  • 808 people at regional public health network sites;
  • 407 others (including residents and staff of the New Hampshire Veterans’ Home, and health care workers at prisons).

State data for how those vaccines are administered is available only by vaccination site, not by population.

The state is currently far behind its goal to immunize the more than 100,000 people in this first group by the end of January. State health officials say the 13 state vaccination sites that have recently opened up across the state will speed the pace of inoculation and eventually be able to deliver 25,000 shots per week. 

How fast is New Hampshire vaccinating its residents?

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services updates its vaccination data every Friday, and NHPR keeps track of it on our COVID-19 data tracker. Click here to see the most up to date vaccine data for New Hampshire.

Doctors and officials continue to ask the public for patience in getting their vaccine as shipments each week only number around 18,000. Vaccinating the current group, and the next group of around 300,000 people is estimated to take until March or later.

Nationally, Operation Warp Speed is lagging far behind its immunization goal. The Trump Administration aimed to have over 20 million people immunized by the end of 2020; instead only 2.1 million people had gotten shots by then.

The new coronavirus vaccines require two doses. How will the state keep track of who needs their second dose?

The state has set up an initial version of its immunization registry meant to support the first phase of distribution. The system is called VAMS: the Vaccine Administration Management System.

Frontline health workers who plan to get the vaccine will be able to register online to get their vaccine through VAMS, and will get an email notification before it’s time for their second dose.

But the state is currently working on shifting to a different registration system for the general public. Eventually, after the initial distribution phase, the state will use the New Hampshire Immunization Information System (NHIIS) to order doses and store and share immunization data. It will eventually be used for all vaccines. Providers are required to participate in the registry to record information about the COVID-19 vaccine -- but not other vaccines -- as ordered by Gov. Chris Sununu.

Doses of the Pfizer vaccine are administered 21 days apart, while Moderna’s are administered 28 days apart.

Is the vaccine safe?

The FDA found “no specific safety concerns” with Pfizer’s vaccine in people ages 16 and over, and an analysis found it to be 95 percent effective. The Moderna vaccine, found to be 94 to 95 percent effective in people 18 and over, was also given a favorable safety profile by the FDA.

Serious reactions were rare, but there are some minor side effects like redness at the injection site, fatigue and headaches. Hospitals are taking those side effects, paired with existing workforce shortages, into account as they begin to vaccinate their staff.

"Given the potential side effects of fever, and some of the other things that they're seeing...we obviously don't want to do all of our front line workers at once. So we're going to try to stagger it,” said Jamie LaRoche, director of provider network operations at Lakes Region General Healthcare.

As many New Hampshire frontline health care workers have already gotten their first dose, hospitals say even minor side effects among their staff have been rare.

Hospitals and long-term care facilities say they’ve been holding Q&A sessions and kicking off educational campaigns to help build trust in the vaccine. A wider public information campaign on the statewide level is in the planning stages, too. Beth Daly, chief of New Hampshire’s Bureau of Infectious Disease Control, said the state “recognize[s] that we need to use alternative mechanisms to reach people who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 and have been disproportionately impacted,” and will work with groups to ensure equity of distribution.

When will I be able to get my vaccine?

State health officials estimate that it could be six to 12 months until there is “widespread access” to the vaccine. The next phase, 1b, will begin at the end of January.

Those eligible now include New Hampshire residents ages 65 and over, a recent change in age requirement down from 75, aligning with recent federal recommendations.

Starting Jan. 22, those eligible can register for a vaccine at www.vaccines.nh.gov, and administration to that group will begin Jan. 26. The public can also visit the site to find out where they fit in the vaccination timeline.

Phase 1b also includes people with two or more health conditions that put them at significantly higher risk for COVID-19. Those people should contact their doctor before registering through the state’s website.

Also in the 1b group are people with developmental and intellectual disabilities living in group settings, and staff at correctional facilities, who will be contacted by their area public health network to schedule a clinic in late February or early March. Mobile vaccination clinics will begin reaching out to disproportionately impacted communities, mainly in Manchester and Nashua, starting later this month.

Phase 2, which could begin in March, includes other high risk groups like teachers and other school and childcare staff. Adults who are 50 - 64 years old will be vaccinated in phase 2b. Officials are aiming to vaccinate 100 people per hour at 13 fixed state sites once this phase begins.

Phase 3A which could begin in May and beyond, will include those who are medically vulnerable, under 50 years old, and are considered to be at moderate health risk. Phase 3B will conclude with everyone who has not already been vaccinated.

Providers like physicians and pharmacies are also currently enrolling with the state to get vaccines and assist with distribution starting soon, so you may be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine from your primary care doctor, just as you would other routine vaccines. 

Is the vaccine immediately effective in people?

No, the vaccine does not provide immediate protection from COVID-19. However, the FDA reports that the Pfizer-made vaccine does begin to provide protection for some recipients about 10 days after the initial dose, according to data released by the agency. The second dose, delivered 21 days after the first dose, boosts immunity above 90 percent and is highly recommended. 

Public health experts are still studying the new COVID-19 variant recently detected in the United Kingdom, but according to the CDC, there is not yet any evidence that suggests the approved vaccines are any less effective against the new strain.