In the last several days, groups opposed to the COVID-19 vaccine have suggested in emails and on social media that children can be vaccinated in New Hampshire even if a parent does not grant permission. Not true, said a top state public health official Tuesday.
“We’ve heard a lot of misinformation in some communities and concern on the part of parents or guardians that we will be vaccinating children in schools without parental consent,” state epidemiologist Dr. Ben Chan said Tuesday at a COVID-19 update. “I just want to be very clear that that is incorrect. That is wrong and false information.”
Parents and guardians can consent in person when they take their child to a vaccination appointment. If they opt to have their child vaccinated at a school clinic and are not present, the vaccine will not be given unless the child has a permission form signed by a parent or guardian and a completed medical questionnaire, Chan said. In addition, clinic staff separately confirm the child before them is the same child identified in the permission form and medical questionnaire before they administer the vaccine, Chan said.
Children ages 5 to 11 became eligible for pediatric doses of the Pfizer vaccine earlier this month. Since then, schools, the state’s mobile vaccine van, urgent care centers, local pharmacies, and primary care providers have vaccinated at least 4,000 children, but most likely more, Chan said, because some pharmacies are reporting doses to the Centers for Disease Control but not the state. There are an estimated 97,000 children ages 5 to 11 in the New Hampshire.
Chan said the state is working to add that age group’s vaccination progress to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard. Currently, the site reports vaccination doses for only people age 12 and older.
As of Wednesday, the CDC, which the state has said has the most accurate COVID-19 metrics, reported that 72.6 percent of New Hampshire residents had been fully vaccinated. But that percentage includes booster shots, not just first and second doses.
The Department of Health and Human Services recently got approval to spend $4.7 million in federal funding to increase availability of child vaccines through public health centers and school and community clinics. Chan said the department wanted to offer parents and guardians the option of joining their child at a vaccination appointment or having them vaccinated at school to avoid having to take time off from work.
The department has a map of pharmacies across the state offering vaccines to kids ages 5 to 11, along with links to schedule an appointment, on its website vaccines.nh.gov. The wait time for an appointment is about a week. The vaccine van schedule is also available at that site, but it was out of date as of Wednesday. Facebook users can find a more updated schedule on the Department of Health and Human Services’s Facebook page.
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