No-bid contract leads to testy exchange and near loss of six new vaccination sites

By: and - December 22, 2021 2:30 pm
A health care worker receives a COVID-19 shot

A $7.2 million contract for six more vaccination sites nearly failed Wednesday because it was not put out to bid. (Ethan Miller | Getty Images)

Gov. Chris Sununu and Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette were frustrated with the Executive Council Wednesday after it initially rejected a contract for additional vaccination sites. (Annmarie Timmins | New Hampshire Bulletin)

The state barely secured six additional walk-in vaccination sites capable of providing 15,000 shots a week after a vote Wednesday by three councilors who opposed a $7.2 million contract because it was not put out to bid, a process that would delay the sites by as much as three months.

Gov. Chris Sununu did not hide his frustration, especially with Councilor Ted Gatsas who initiated the no vote that was supported by Councilors David Wheeler and Joseph Kenney.

“Okay, so let’s be really clear,” Sununu said. “You’ve just shut down six walk-in sites when the entire state is complaining that they can’t get a vaccine. I am begging you to reconsider.”

Gatsas, who indicated he’d been contacted by companies that would have liked a chance at the contract, tried and failed to shift the focus from the pandemic to the bidding process. 

“Governor, I’m not trying to eliminate sites,” he said, adding that he supports vaccination. 

“Yes you are. You just did,” Sununu replied.

“Don’t put words in my mouth,” Gatsas told the governor, “because I don’t do that to you.”

In a 5-0 vote, the council obliged Sununu’s plea and reversed course, passing the contract with Convenient MD, which the state has contracted to provide prior vaccination sites. The first five new sites will be in Concord, Keene, Manchester, Nashua, and Salem.

In other COVID-19 news Wednesday, Sununu announced a second ‘Booster Blitz,’ scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 8. Appointments for one of the 13,000 spots must be made ahead of time at covid19.nh.gov/booster-blitz. (Registration opens Jan. 3.) Residents can choose from one of 14 sites around the state.

Beginning Thursday, a second round of 750,000 at-home tests will be available to residents for free, but only to those who did not receive a test during the first round in November, when 850,000 tests were claimed in less than 24 hours. Tests can be ordered at learn.vaulthealth.com/nh.  Because they come in sets of eight, there will be enough to reach 80,000 homes, according to Sununu.  

And both Sununu and state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan emphasized the importance of boosters in protecting against the omicron variant, urging everyone who can to get a booster. Nine cases of the omicron variant have been identified in the state, although Chan said he thought the real number is likely to be higher.

Sununu also urged parents to get their children vaccinated, citing the first death of a New Hampshire child from COVID-19, who died in September while out of state. He expressed frustration with vaccine hesitancy and the misinformation being spread on social media. “I just hope more parents vaccinate their kids,” he said.

 Currently 25,000 children between 5 and 11 have received at least one dose of vaccine, according to Chan.

 

 

 

 

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Amanda Gokee
Amanda Gokee

Amanda Gokee is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s energy and environment reporter. She previously reported on these issues at VTDigger. Amanda grew up in Vermont and is a graduate of Harvard University. She received her master’s degree in liberal studies, with a concentration in creative writing, from Dartmouth College. Her work has also appeared in the LA Review of Books and the Valley News.

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.

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