Those who meet the criteria for Phase 1B of the COVID-19 vaccine can begin scheduling appointments on Friday, New Hampshire officials announced last week.
As the vaccine rollout enters its next stage, Monadnock Community Hospital is gearing up to provide the most up to date information to the community and preparing for, if and when, they will be part of the vaccination process for area residents.
“The COVID vaccination process is an enormous undertaking. Here at MCH and across New Hampshire, hospitals are coordinating with State officials to create and staff additional local vaccination clinics that are needed to get the vaccine accessible to patients as quickly as possible, while still caring for our patients with complex needs” said MCH President and CEO Cyndee McGuire. “We ask people to be patient and check out the resources on our website to stay informed, and please sign up to receive a vaccination as soon as they qualify.”
New Hampshire residents who qualify under the Phase 1B criteria can start registering at 8 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 22 to receive their vaccine at one of the state clinics. According to a press release from Gov. Chris Sununu’s office on Tuesday, an estimated 300,000 individuals are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination within Phase 1B of the state’s distribution plan with clinics set to begin on Jan. 26. According to the release, Phase 1B includes people 65 years and older; residents who are medically vulnerable at significant risk – including family caregivers for those under 16; residents with developmental disabilities that receive services in a congregate residential setting, as well as staff in those settings; corrections officers and staff; and populations that experience health disparities.
Residents can learn more about these qualifying conditions by calling the state’s hotline at 2-1-1 or by checking out the Vaccine Phase Check at www.vaccines.nh.gov, where registration will take place, if they qualify.
Those who qualify and register on the state site will receive an email from the CDC inviting them to register for a vaccine. Mike Flynn, director of Pharmacy and Oncology at MCH, said it may take several days to receive the email from the CDC, but once it’s received, residents can register for a vaccine appointment at a clinic in New Hampshire. Appointments will be offered at the fixed sites located around the state, Flynn said, with the closest fixed site clinics set up in Keene, Concord and Nashua. Appointments will be scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis, subject to vaccine availability.
“Hospitals are working with DHHS to create additional access in our area by offering public clinics for vaccination in addition to the fixed sites,” Flynn said. “Not all of these clinics will be in the registration system on Friday. They will be visible as a choice as the clinics are set up.”
Flynn encouraged residents to sign up for the earliest appointment they can conveniently get to.
“The focus of the effort is creating efficient access and getting the vaccines administered to our population as quickly as possible. People who do not have access to email and the internet can call the state hotline at 2-1-1,” Flynn said.
Flynn said MCH is working with the state, the New Hampshire Hospital Association and other hospitals to create as much access as possible.
“We are striving to collaborate with our partners in the community as we develop our vaccine clinics at MCH,” he said. “We are developing our clinic plan and the state is doing the same,” adding that he is in daily contact with the state regarding vaccine allocations and the latest guidance.
As of Tuesday, Flynn said the plan is to have all MCH employees who have opted to get the vaccine to have the opportunity for the first dose by the end of next week.
“About 90% of our employees have opted to get the vaccine. To date, we have had five employee vaccine clinics. The sixth clinic will be Friday, Jan. 22. We anticipate that second doses for employees should be complete by the end of February,” he said.
According to data released by the NH Department of Health and Human Services outlining vaccinations in NH hospitals, MCH had administered 80 percent of the 425 doses they had received from the state as of Jan. 14. Flynn said the remaining doses the hospital had on hand were for their vaccination clinic scheduled for Friday, adding that after Friday’s clinic all the vaccines the hospital has received should be administered.
“This number fluctuates based on when we receive our allocation from the state and when the clinics are scheduled,” Flynn said.
So far, Flynn said, MCH has received a weekly allocation of vaccines from the state. The State of New Hampshire vaccine distribution plan includes three phases, based on individuals’ risk. Up to this point, Phase 1A designated individuals – health care workers, first responders and adults in residential care settings – are among the first group to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Flynn said the biggest variable is the limitation of doses nationwide, as the state receives vaccines from the Federal government, which is then allocated to clinics by state. According to Tuesday’s release by Sununu’s office, “for those unable to schedule an appointment online, the 211 Hotline remains available. An extremely high call volume is anticipated. Wait times may be long, but every call will be answered by a live person,” the release stated. “Limited supply of vaccines from the federal government means appointments may be booked weeks out. Everyone in Phase 1B who wants an appointment will get an appointment. If allocation should increase, appointments will be rescheduled to earlier dates and times.”
Personnel resources may also be a limitation, Flynn said, and the Greater Monadnock Public Health Network is coordinating all vaccine clinic volunteers for the Monadnock Region. People can sign up at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WVN5LTZ.
In an effort to provide the most up to date information, MCH created a COVID-19 vaccine page on its website, www.MCHvaccine.org, which anyone can sign up to receive weekly emails from MCH with the latest news, even if you are not a patient of MCH.