CONCORD — COVID-19 vaccination sites around New Hampshire began accepting walk-ins during fixed hours on Monday.
Gov. Chris Sununu announced the change from appointment-only vaccinations at his weekly press conference last Thursday.
Also announced at the conference, Vermont and New Hampshire will offer a joint special clinic of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a drive-thru at the Lancaster Fairgrounds Friday, May 21, from noon to 6 p.m. For more information, search “Lancaster” at vaccines.nh.gov.
Sununu said the state-run vaccine sites will have 50 doses a day available between 3 and 6 p.m. with no appointment needed and follow-up appointments given at the time of the first dose.
Fixed site walk-ins will be available in Belmont, Concord, Dover, Hooksett, Keene, Nashua, Newington, Newport, Plymouth, Salem, and West Lebanon.
“This change really helps the state with vaccine waste,” he noted.
He said he hopes “when the thought strikes” people can just go get the vaccine immediately.
Sununu stated New Hampshire is among one of the first states to offer such a service and one of the first to offer out-of-state residents a vaccine.
Dr. Beth Daly, who heads up the infectious disease department within DHHS, said there have been 1,267,000 vaccine doses given out in the state so far, including 750,000 getting their first dose, making up 55 percent of the total population, and 555,000 fully vaccinated, about 41 percent of the population.
She said the state continues to receive 50,000 doses a week from the various federal programs.
The big news this week is that the two-dose Pfizer vaccine is now available for children 12 to 15. Until now, the vaccines have been available to those aged 16 and up.
Parents can register their teens at the state VINI website. So far, in one day, 6,000 have already registered out of a population of about 60,000, Daly said.
Because they can only receive the Pfizer vaccine, Daly said parents should look for the list of locations on the website which offer that vaccine, noting the list includes Walgreens drugstores and many local hospitals.
Additionally, the state is setting up school vaccination clinics.
Officials noted some children can get seriously ill from the coronavirus. There have been 3 million sickened and 500 children have died including from multisystem inflammatory disease related to COVID-19.
Daly said vaccinations will help keep teens healthy and in school.
“We do encourage all parents to make that choice,” she said.
The state is also continuing with mobile clinics to make it more accessible and working with Elliott Hospital in Manchester to reach deaf people, with a clinic scheduled on May 22 in Manchester. Call (603) 546-7882 by videophone or visit email@example.com.
Daly said supply is now meeting demand, but in the future, as the numbers dwindle down, there will be more efforts to go to large employers, mobile sites and other businesses for pop-up clinic and event opportunities, perhaps with free incentives.
On Monday, DHHS announced 104 new positive test results for COVID-19, including one new case in Coos County, and 1,169 current COVID-19 cases diagnosed in New Hampshire.
One new death was announced, a woman 60 or older in Carroll County.
There are currently 46 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19.
An outbreak is ongoing at the federal corrections facility in Berlin.
Dr. Benjamin Chan, the state epidemiologist, said Thursday the numbers of cases were dropping, but that continued reports of deaths “highlight the ongoing risk and why we continue to stress the importance of vaccination.”
Sununu urged all to take up open appointments and to complete the two-dose series for the Pfizer and Moderna shots, “for the longest level of protection.”
“Getting vaccinated is low risk and a very high benefit,” he said, “in protecting oneself and ending this pandemic.”
On Thursday, Chan said he was “a little unhappy” with the way CDC rolled out guidance on masks, announcing that anyone fully vaccinated no longer has to wear a mask inside or out, with recommendations to wear it in congregate settings. It does not impact federal travel restrictions which still are requiring a mask.
Chan said he found out about it in the news rather than getting a briefing and written rationalization for changes, so he could not definitively express a view until he read the data. He said he wondered whether the timing was right.
“Yes we have great confidence in the vaccines,” he said, adding that moving back to a maskless world is “where we are going. The difficult choices are what is the correct timing? We’ve always said that is a factor of two different things.”
He said there is still a large percentage of the population still vulnerable to the virus.
BREAKTHROUGH CASES AND VARIANTS CIRCULATING
Dr. Chan said New Hampshire is investigating infections after people have been fully vaccinated and there have been about 178 known cases among 550,000 fully vaccinated.
“It is still a small percentage,” he said and mirrors national data.
He said the state is also seeing virus variants, similar to national trends, and an increasing proportion of the B117 or UK source variant, circulating in the state.