Despite the cold weather, people happily snaked out of their heavy winter coats and bared their upper arms for a COVID-19 vaccination Tuesday.
The state officially launched Phase 1B, which is open to residents 65 and older and people under 65 with severe medical conditions, by administering vaccinations at more than a dozen locations.
“Like everybody else around here right now, I've got a big smile on my face. You just can’t see it under my mask,” said Charlie Champagne, 71, of Brentwood, who received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in a parking lot behind Exeter High School.
“Very, very well organized, I must say. The National Guard is doing a bang-up job. It was efficient, timely. Yeah, I'm just tickled pink,” he said.
Champagne is one of more than 120,000 residents who recently scheduled an appointment for a vaccination. With the state receiving approximately 17,500 doses each week from the federal government, appointments are now stretching into April in some locations.
The state vaccinated approximately 83,000 people to date as part of Phase 1A, which includes health workers, residents and staff of long-term care facilities, and first responders.
To make an appointment for Phase 1B, residents can complete a form at vaccines.nh.gov, or call 2-1-1. Some residents have found the second step of the application process, which involves completing a form from the CDC, cumbersome, if not confusing.
“We had a couple of hiccups with trying to get online, but other than that, everything went smoothly,” said Meg Trafton of North Hampton, who along with her husband Dan received their first doses in Exeter.
“These people are fantastic. They are wonderful,” she said of the N.H. National Guard members who are running the site.
Captain James Miller, the officer in charge of the site in Exeter, said they are prepared to administer between 300 and 500 doses per day.
“It’s running very smoothly,” Miller said. “It seems to be right on pace.”
After receiving a first dose, people can log back into the online vaccine management site to schedule a second dose. The state says while some people are currently only able to book second appointments six or more weeks out, it will release additional appointment slots shortly.
“If you got your first dose, and you are scheduled for your second dose, and you had to schedule out a ways, we’ll be able to open up more second dose appointments. We already have a plan to do that, we have the capacity to do it,” said Perry Plummer, who is directing logistics of the vaccine rollout for the state, during a press conference Tuesday.
The state is also stepping up outreach to the approximately 40-percent of residents who completed the first phase of the registration process for the vaccine, but failed to complete the required CDC forms which were sent via email. Some residents say the follow-up email never arrived, or the site rejected their attempts to complete the form.
Additional communication from the state is slated to be sent out Wednesday morning advising people on how to complete the process.
Anyone with questions about the vaccine or registration process are asked to call 2-1-1.