Six weeks ago, Granite Staters were so determined to book their COVID-19 vaccine appointments, they crashed the state’s VINI website on its first day. Even so, there were 38,000 registrations completed before lunchtime.
And they showed up for their shots, too. According to data reported by the NH Department of Health and Human Services, more than 127,000 people got their first shots between April 7 and 20. That’s more than 9,700 first doses per day.
That was then…
This weekend, the state had 4,500 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine available to Granite Staters. Only 1,589 people showed up. Compare that to a mass vaccine event at the Loudon Speedway three weeks ago, where 12,000 people lined up for the same shots.
In a statement, Gov. Chris Sununu’s spokesperson blamed the state’s plunging demand for the J & J vaccine on the CDC’s decision to pull the shots over a handful of cases of blood clots believed to be linked to the vaccine. “There is no doubt that the back and forth messaging out of Washington has contributed to the increased hesitation in receiving the J&J vaccine. It was an unnecessary delay that has shaken consumer confidence in a safe and proven vaccine.”
Perhaps. But demand for all doses in New Hampshire has been heading downward for at least two weeks. That 9,700 first-dose shots per day are now down to 6,272 — a 33 percent plunge. At a time when the state is awash in vaccine supply.
And while Sununu dismisses this drop as what he called an expected decline, fewer Granite Staters showed up for their second shot in the past 10 days as well, according to DHHS reporting.
Now, a new Biden administration policy could conceivably send unused vaccines from New Hampshire to other states. On Tuesday, the White House reportedly told Sununu and the rest of the nation’s governors that doses they choose not to order will be made available to other states.
According to The Washington Post, it’s “part of an effort to account for flagging demand in parts of the country” and a step toward Biden’s newly-announced goal of getting 70 percent of adults to have at least one shot by July 4.
New Hampshire is currently the closest state to achieving Biden’s goal, at 61 percent. However, it has dropped to number six among states using the highest percentage of vaccines received, having fallen from 95 to 85 percent.
For months, public health experts have warned America would reach the “more shots than arms” phase before reaching herd immunity. In a February 9 article, NHJournal quoted former FDA chief Dr. Scott Gottlieb saying. “At some point, perhaps in April, supply will start exceeding demand. The challenge won’t be how to ration a scarce resource, but how to reach patients reluctant to get vaccinated.”
The question now is what will the Sununu administration do to change enough minds to potentially reach herd immunity in New Hampshire — or at least keep the state from losing doses?
Will it change messaging, overriding mixed messages about wearing masks after being fully vaccinated? Will New Hampshire join states like West Virginia and Maryland who give cash payments to people who get shots? Or turn to the state’s thriving brewery industry for a Granite State version of New Jersey’s “shot and a beer program?
Now that the Biden administration plans to send doses to the people demanding them, it’s a question with serious consequences for the Sununu administration and the Granite State.