18 million young children eligible for the first time since the pandemic began two years ago. (Jacob King | WPA Pool | Getty Images)
With final state approval in hand, the Department of Health and Human Services plans to use $6 million in federal pandemic money to bring COVID-19 testing and vaccines to Granite Staters’ neighborhoods and homes.
The money will allow the department to send three mobile vaccination vans into communities, providing not just vaccines and boosters but also telehealth access to a health care provider, according to its funding request to the Executive Council and Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee. A fourth van will be dedicated to home-based visits.
Both bodies approved the funding.
The state will dispatch the van upon request and intends to use some of the money for a call center that will schedule stops between October and March.
At a fiscal committee meeting Friday, Rep. Jess Edwards, an Auburn Republican who sits on the committee, raised concerns about the safety of administering a COVID-19 vaccine to children between 6 months and age 5, a group approved for the vaccine in June.
“I think that it’s incumbent upon us that when we do something controversial, and injecting kids under 5 and (giving) boosters over 5 turns out to be a controversial issue, I think it’s important for us to demonstrate that we’re following the science,” Edwards told Patricia Tilley, director of public health for the state.
At Edwards’ request, Tilley said the department will provide the public a summary of the studies and scientific literature it has reviewed in determining that it is safe to give that age group a COVID-19 vaccine. Tilley said the department is making the vaccine available to all eligible age groups based on scientific evidence and consideration of the risks of forgoing a COVID-19 vaccination.
“We know that there are implications of long COVID for children who have had COVID-19 infections,” Tilley told Edwards. “There are other outcomes from myocarditis and some impacts around diabetes that are really concerning. And so, we think it is an effective policy to have vaccines available to children and to adults.”
Tilley noted at the fiscal committee meeting that there is no requirement that children receive a COVID-19 vaccine to attend school or childcare programs. “This is a decision that families can make for themselves and individuals can make for themselves,” said Tilley.
The Food and Drug Administration authorized the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 6 months to 5 three months ago. In July, the Kaiser Family Foundation said early uptake had been slow and began declining two weeks after the vaccine became available.
The organization reported that just 2.8 percent of children ages 6 months to 5 had been vaccinated, compared to 18.5 percent of children ages 5 to 11 in the weeks after they had access to the vaccine.
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