New Hampshire is set to receive its first shipment of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, and one local health care system says it could begin inoculating its frontline workers by Wednesday.
State officials announced more details on the impending delivery in a Sunday evening press release. According to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, the state is expected to receive 12,675 doses as part of its initial round of the vaccine.
The state is not disclosing the exact time or location of the arriving shipment "out of an abundance of caution for the security of the vaccine," according to DHHS spokeswoman Laura Montenegro, who is in charge of communications for the state's COVID-19 vaccine operations section.
Under New Hampshire's current distribution plan, healthcare workers who are most at risk for direct exposure will be first in line for a vaccine. Future rounds will be prioritized for additional healthcare workers, as well as residents of long-term care facilities and first responders.
While state officials praised news of the first shipments, they also cautioned that it will likely be six months to a year until there is "widespread access" to the vaccine. In the meantime, health experts say everyone - including those who receive the vaccine - should continue to take precautions like wearing masks and practicing safe distancing to prevent the continued spread of the virus.
Local hospitals are already gearing up to start inoculating frontline staffers within the coming days.
SolutionHealth, which includes Elliot Hospital in Manchester and Southern New Hampshire Medical Center in Nashua, is preparing to start vaccinating some of its frontline health workers by Wednesday. Both hospitals have been treating among the highest number of COVID-19 patients in the state, particularly as the virus has worsened over the past month.
In the press release announcing the state's first shipments, New Hampshire officials heralded the vaccine's arrival as a glimmer of hope amid a tough stretch of the pandemic.
“This momentous occasion marks the beginning of the end of the pandemic,” said Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette. “The FDA conducted a thorough approval process while ensuring an unprecedented timeline for vaccine production. The Pfizer vaccine has proven to be safe and very effective in protecting people from COVID-19. This is great news for the people of New Hampshire, who have endured so much for the past 10 months. The end is in sight for this worldwide pandemic.”
Gov. Chris Sununu, too, said the state is "ready to hit the ground running to do our part in delivering this game-changing vaccine."
"It is an all-hands-on-deck effort for one of the most important undertakings in the history of our state," the governor said. "The State stands ready to get to work and distribute this life-saving vaccine to the citizens of our state."
More details on New Hampshire's vaccine distribution plans and answers to commonly asked vaccine questions can be found on the state's COVID-19 website.