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General population could receive vaccines by May

by Tara Giles
Sports reporter - Coos County Democrat and Berlin Reporter
January 13, 2021
LANCASTER — The state of New Hampshire on Jan. 5, released a timeline for distribution of the COVID-19 vaccination. The rollout will come in three phases, each with a sub-phase.

Weeks Medical Center's Chief Nursing Officer, Jennifer Bach-Guss, discussed the phases. Phase 1A is taking place now, and will continue through the month. Those include high risk health workers, long term care residents and first responders. Part B to that phase will take place from January to March, and will include people 75 and over, medically vulnerable, staff and residents of IDD facilities and corrections officers and staff.

Phase 2A will begin in March and run through May. Those include people who are 65-74 years old. K-12 teachers, school staff and childcare workers. Part B, will include those 50-65 years of age.

Phase 3 will begin in May and will include medically vulnerable people 50 years of age and younger who are at a moderate risk. Part B will include anyone else who has not yet been vaccinated.

Bach-Guss reminds us that anything can change at any time.

She said, "Logistically it's hard to arrange. We're a small hospital, I've had a group of five to six people who have done nothing but work to roll this out. At Weeks, we have to decide who belongs in what group, then figure out our allocation and decide who gets priority. So far, we've had an adequate supply. This undertaking has been huge."

Bach-Guss relays that 75 percent of the staff does want the vaccine, and so far anyone that has wanted it has been able to receive it.

"The 25 percent that did not want it at first, are beginning to change their minds," she noted.

The first doses to those employees or high risk patients began a few weeks ago. That group has now begun to receive the required second dose.

"After the second dose, they should have up to 95 percent efficacy against the virus for an unknown amount of time," Bach-Guss explained. "It's difficult because we don't know, but some are saying that two years could be the number, but we really don't know yet."

She added, "In order for people to go back to living how we did pre-COVID including not having to wear a mask everywhere, you need to have enough of the population vaccinated that you're protecting each other that's usually 75 to 80 percent of the population."

In May, the general population will be able to receive the vaccinations at various distribution sites which are still in the works.

The four affiliates within NCH include Androscoggin Valley Hospital in Berlin, Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital in Colebrook, Weeks Medical Center in Lancaster and North Country Home Health and Hospice in Littleton. So far, out of the roughly 550 people that have been vaccinated out of the under NCH, no one has experienced any serious side effects.

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