Health officials criticize rejection of vaccine funding

October 25, 2021 GMT

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire’s rejection of federal funding for vaccine outreach and other programs will further strain the state’s hospitals and delay the administration of COVID-19 vaccines to children, health care officials said Monday.

The Republican-led Executive Council, a five-member panel that approves state contracts, rejected $27 million in federal vaccination funding this month, although a legislative committee later approved accepting $4.7 million.

Jim Potter, executive vice president of the New Hampshire Medical Society, said pediatricians “desperately need” the money to begin vaccinating children.

“You’re going to have parents who are going to be delayed months in getting their kids vaccinated,” Potter said. “This is not so much about the rights of some individuals, it’s simply denying access to care to what I would say is the majority of parents of children who want the vaccine.”

Dr. Don Caruso, CEO at Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene, said hospitals are struggling with a high volume of patients, many of whom delayed care during the pandemic and are coming in sicker. Some are cutting back on elective procedures, while intensive care patients are being moved around the state, he said, adding that staff members are exhausted and leaving the health care profession.

“What the Executive Council did was a travesty,” Caruso said.

The health officials were joined at a news conference by the state’s all-Democratic congressional delegation, who called the council’s actions misguided and dangerous.

Republican councilors argued the grant language would have required the state to comply with any “future directives” issued by the Biden administration regarding COVID-19, such as vaccine mandates, although the state attorney general said that wasn’t true.

Asked whether they could get federal waivers to remove that language, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said the delegation did its part by securing the funds.

“We’ve already talked to the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), we’re talking to the various federal agencies, but the reality is, we’ve done our job,” Shaheen said. “Now it’s time for the governor and the Republican Executive Councilors to do their jobs and protect the health and safety of the people of this state.”