MEREDITH — The state has now given a second round of vaccine shots to about 15,000, and 83,000 people have had their first of the two rounds needed to inoculate them against COVID-19, the state said at a news conference yesterday afternoon.
That was delivered as encouraging news by Governor Sununu and other officials, but for a couple in Meredith, their experience trying to access both needed doses has been frustrating.
Butch Keniston, 66, and his wife Hilary, 59, qualified for the vaccine in the state’s Phase 1A because they care for a person with a disability.
“My wife had scheduled our vaccines a couple of weeks ago, that went pretty well," Butch said. "She got her first shot at the (Lakes Region) Community College on the 12th, I got my first dose at the Plymouth Armory on that Friday, the 15th.”
The frustration began afterward, he said. They were told they would be contacted within a week to schedule their second dose of the Moderna vaccine, which is necessary to provide full protection. A week went by without a word from the state, so Hilary spent much of Monday on websites and on the phone, being passed around by state officials who said she needed to be speaking to someone else.
The best date that she could schedule for their second round was into the second week of March, about 60 days after their first shot. Moderna recommends that the second dose be administered 28 days after the first.
The Kenistons said that their experience gives them concern. If they – supposedly in the most critical group to be vaccinated – can’t be given their second dose in a timely manner, how is the rest of the state going to fare now that the vaccine rollout is being opened up to hundreds of thousands more?
“It’s very frustrating,” Butch said.
Sununu acknowledged at his news conference that there were some people having delays or difficulty booking their second shot. However, he downplayed the length of delay, which only caused further frustration for the Kenistons.
“The press conference says those looking for their second shot can get one within a day or two of the 28 days we should have it," Butch said. "Not true. I went in and cancelled the appointment for March 9, too far out anyway, and now I can’t get in until March 13… All sites within 50 miles of my home and there were two new sites in Conway for second doses, and there is no availability anywhere for me to get my second shot. So frustrating, and not what the governor just reported. So not true for me.” He said calling the state’s 2-1-1 information hotline offered “no help.”
At the press conference, Sununu said getting the second dose later than 28 days after the first should not affect the long-term protection provided by the vaccine. “All indications are it can be stretched out over a period of time,” and said that the extra days or weeks in between are a “cushion” to ensure that a second dose will indeed be available by the time the appointment arrives.
Vaccine shortage and scheduling confusion has been an issue across the United States. Sununu said the state is expecting its allotment to increase by close to 20% soon, thanks to a boost in production from Moderna. Pfizer’s production volume is not expected to change in the immediate future.
The brightest spot in the press conference was delivered by Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette, who reported that 12 outbreaks at congregate living facilities, including the NH Veterans Home in Tilton and Golden View in Meredith, were now closed, and that no new outbreaks were being reported. That development was credited to the vaccines being delivered to residents of those facilities.