Our Future Is on the Line as NH Struggles to Vaccinate for COVID

written by Jayme H. Simões, President of Louis Karno & Company Communications and NHPHA Board Member

The COVID-19 vaccine rollout in New Hampshire has been slow so far. Our state is not alone in struggling. Vaccines are in short supply and citizens are confused by conflicting information. More concerning, there is still much to be done to address apprehension around the vaccines, making achieving herd immunity in 2021 a pipe dream. 

Costly shifting openings, vaccine shortages, long waits for callers, and uneven distribution are causing real concern among the state’s older-than-age-65 populations, according to media reports. We have hospitals that can’t offer clinics, because they just don't have enough vaccine. And, having never set up a vaccine registry, we are at a real disadvantage.

Worse, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted New Hampshire’s communities of color. And those same populations are not getting access, nor is there any clear outreach to them. Meanwhile, there are reports of the wealthy jumping the line to get vaccinated. All this is astounding, given that we have had months and months to prepare a plan and roll out the communication. 

A recent Concord Monitor report found that reaching herd immunity under the current pandemic is unlikely in 2021. The consequences of that on our state’s hospitals, travel, ski, and dining sectors are sizable. So, what can we do? One example of success is West Virginia, a state that turned to locally owned pharmacies to vaccinate residents against a virus that has killed 400,000. More West Virginian people have been vaccinated than in any other state, and so far almost 8 percent of the population has gotten the first of two shots.

If we want to get our economy up and running again—and keep kids in schools—then more work is needed to get this right. Better communication, more outreach to communities of color, and ongoing, sustained messaging to those undecided about getting vaccinated – all of these would help improve New Hampshire’s approach. This is the most vital public health initiative of our lifetime; there is no room for error. The economy, our kids, and our health hang in the balance.

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