Virus Outbreak Vaccine New Hampshire

Intensive care unit nurse Heidi Kukla is injected with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Dec. 15, 2020, outside Elliot Hospital in Manchester, N.H.

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(The Center Square) – A legislative panel in New Hampshire has voted to accept federal pandemic relief money to buttress the state's COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

On Friday, the Legislature's Fiscal Committee voted 10-0 to approve more than $4.7 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to help boost lagging vaccinations.

The request was made by Gov. Chris Sununu, who has been wrangling with lawmakers over the acceptance of more federal funding to fund the state's vaccination programs.

Sununu praised the committee for approving the funds, which he said will be used to help prepare the state to vaccinate more than 125,000 children when the federal government authorizes vaccines for children ages 5 to 11.

"This funding is critical to ensure boosters are available to the State’s vulnerable and at risk populations, and will support Regional Public Health Networks to set up efficient vaccine clinics to improve access for individuals and parents who wish to have their children vaccinated," Sununu said in a statement.

Last week, the GOP-controlled Executive Council voted 4-1 along party lines to reject two contracts totaling $27 million in federal funds to help the state expand vaccinations.

Councilors who voted against the contracts cited concerns about the effectiveness of the vaccines and whether accepting the grant money would bind the state to federal mandates.

But the council's rejection of the money made New Hampshire the only state in the country to turn down federal vaccine funds.

The rejection came despite efforts by Sununu and state public health officials to convince skeptical council members and amid the backdrop of dozens of anti-vaccine protesters who packed into the meeting. Several protesters were arrested for disrupting the proceedings.

Sununu blasted the decision and said it shows a "reckless disregard" for lives and the state's COVID-19 efforts to vaccinate more people.

Democrats have blamed Sununu for, they say, sending mixed messages about the COVID-19 vaccines by vowing to challenge President's Joe Biden's federal vaccine mandates even as he pushes for approval of the federal funding for vaccination programs.

Sununu is one of a number of Republican governors who have threatened to sue the federal government over Biden's vaccine mandate, which will require large companies with more than 100 employees to require their workers to get vaccinated or tested regularly.

Rep. Ken Weyler, R-Kingston, stepped down as chairman of the House Finance and Joint Legislative Fiscal committees after he was criticized for emailing fellow committee members a "report" filled with misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines.

The report included outlandish claims that COVID-19 death counts are inflated and that "octopus-like creatures" were being injected into people’s bodies through the vaccines.

Weyler sought to block the vaccine contracts over language he alleged would require the state to enforce any future federal COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns.

But Attorney General John Formella issued a legal opinion that the $27 million in federal grants won't require the state to follow any future directives on the COVID-19 response from the federal government.

The federal funding approved by the council on Friday must still go before the Executive Council for consideration.

This article originally ran on thecentersquare.com.

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