Our Turn: Federal funding will help stem the tide of COVID

Published: 11/19/2021 6:00:17 AM

Today, the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee, made up of state senators and representatives, will once again consider federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funding to support and strengthen the state’s COVID-19 vaccine program. These $22.5 million in federal funds will play an essential role in getting vaccines to children, seniors and others that need and want them, and to help reduce wait times and increase access to services for all Granite Staters by providing vaccine supplies, technical assistance and increasing staffing capacity among our healthcare providers to help get the vaccine to those that need and want them.

These funds, which were thankfully approved last week by the state’s Executive Council, have been on the table since September and the setbacks have led to delays in getting the vaccine to children and booster shots to eligible adults. Meanwhile, New Hampshire’s positive case numbers continue to rise, reaching an average of 800 per day, more than one-third of which are among children, for the first time since last winter. And clusters continue to spread in classrooms, nursing homes and workplaces.

More than 6,300 Granite Staters have active COVID and 294 people are currently hospitalized with the virus, which is pushing our ICUs to the limit and delaying needed surgeries and other procedures. We have buried 1,639 of our friends and neighbors due to this disease, and we are losing more every day, despite the availability of vaccines that have been shown to drastically reduce serious illness and death.

To put it simply, New Hampshire’s COVID-19 data points are all trending in the wrong direction and we need this federal funding to help stem the tide.

The CDC funding up for consideration in the Joint Fiscal Committee will go far to reverse these trends and support supplies and positions to increase access to the state’s vaccine program. Together, these funds will provide vaccine supplies, technical assistance and increasing staffing capacity among our healthcare providers to help get the vaccine to those that need and want them.

Once approved, the funding will support 13 temporary, full-time positions, including an immunization strategic response manager, a health communication specialist, a grant coordinator and five data quality specialists, among others, to help ensure safe and timely vaccine delivery. It will also help cover shipping costs for vaccine supplies, as well as important computer hardware and software for new staff.

These funds will provide critical supplies, technical assistance and increased staffing capacity to help our health care providers increase access to services, reduce wait times and meet Granite Staters’ health care needs more quickly and efficiently. They will give our providers the resources they need to get the vaccine to children and families that want them and to deliver booster shots to others in need. In short, this funding will save lives.

On behalf of a broad coalition of nearly 30 health care providers and advocacy organizations, representing hundreds of thousands of New Hampshire children, families, seniors and other Granite Staters, we ask that members of the Joint Fiscal Committee accept these funds without delay, get vaccines to those who want them and help our state finally overcome this COVID-19 pandemic.

(Kate Frey is Vice President of Advocacy at New Futures in Concord. Georgia J. Maheras, Esq. is Vice President Policy and Strategy at Bi-State Primary Care Association in Bow.)

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