CONWAY — After the first full week of vaccinations at its North Conway clinic, Memorial Hospital officials say the process is working, but one snag has been the handful of people who show up at the hospital’s clinic at the former Weather Discovery Center in North Conway, hoping there will be vaccine left over at the end of the day and that they will be able to get a shot.
Officials say that will not happen, and they are trying to discourage the practice.
“Please don’t encourage anyone to just show up and hope they can get vaccinated. We are not pulling people from cars waiting in the parking lot,” said Memorial Hospital Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Will Owen in a community Zoom meeting last Friday.
“You can’t just walk in and get an appointment. I know that’s frustrating, but it’s taking a lot of time here for us,” he said.
Hospital President Art Mathisen said the hospital is asking that people not call them asking to be placed on a waiting list to get vaccinated in case there are openings.
Mathisen said that simply isn’t feasible at this point. “To have a wait list where you have people calling our call line would absolutely shut down our phones. That’s the conclusion I came to,” he said.
None of the vaccine is being wasted. The hospital is following state guidelines and working from its own lists of people in Phase 1A and 1B when appointment slots open up at the last minute.
First, staff checks for health-care workers or first responders in Phase 1A who have not been vaccinated, then health-care workers in Phase 1B, Mathisen said. Then they call people on the VAMS schedule who live within 30 minutes of the hospital to see if they can come in.
“That’s the way we’re figuring to do that in order to open it up, to keep it fair and use the systems we have,” Mathisen said. “It’s not perfect, but perfection is the enemy of good in this situation,” he said,
Appointments that open up by moving people forward would then appear on the VAMS list for new people to schedule an appointment.
Those who are frustrated because they have been unable to book an appointment before April or May do have reason to hope, however, as Gov. Chris Sununu last week announced that Walgreens will begin vaccinating people in Phase 1B.
Sununu said those vaccinations would be scheduled by calling people who have been scheduled far out in the 1B schedule and offering them the opportunity to move their appointment up and come in to a Walgreens clinic to get their shot.
In making the announcement, Sununu encouraged people to watch for such a phone call and answer their phones.
Memorial’s clinic vaccinated 625 people last week, including first and second dose shots, averaging about 125 doses per day.
Similar numbers are expected this week, and despite the snowstorm Tuesday, the hospital reported most people were able to make their appointments.
The clinic was open Monday through Friday, with different days dedicated to different four different groups of people. Those in Phase 1B who scheduled their first dose through VAMS have appointments on Thursdays and Fridays. Those making appointments through the 211 phone lines are scheduled Tuesdays through Thursdays. Those with appointments for their second dose are scheduled on Mondays and Tuesdays.
People with appointments that were moved from the Tamworth clinic, generally people in Phase 1A receiving a second dose, are scheduled on various days, Tuesdays through Fridays.
Speaking about how quickly things can change with supplies from the state, Owen said, I think we found out probably last Thursday that we were going to open (last) Monday.”
Initially allocated 210 doses per week, the hospital learned it would now be receiving 360 doses of vaccine per week for Phase 1B vaccinations going forward, as well as about 170 additional doses per week through the month of February for vaccinations it took over from the now closed Tamworth clinic.
Mathisen said he visited the North Conway clinic on Thursday and said between 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., 108 people were vaccinated. “What that really confirmed is our 240 (vaccinations) that we feel we can do on a daily basis, which would put us in the 1,200 vaccinated realm in one week,” he said. “We may be able to push more through once we get the doses.
“The clinic was busy, and we had people waiting a few minutes to check in, but I had a number of our community members say this is really flowing well,” he said. “If we can get those doses, that would really be outstanding, and we can really get our community vaccinated.”