The Bulletin Board

State’s vaccine van: Three months and 1,176 shots

By: - November 2, 2021 2:03 pm
Young woman receiving a vaccine shot against a virus

The state’s vaccination rate has been stuck at just over 54 percent. (Getty Images)

The First Parish Church in Dover has hosted the state’s mobile vaccine van three times and, thanks to a big community advertising campaign, has gotten more people vaccinated than most sites, save for the University of New Hampshire. The count so far is 42 but will no doubt increase with the van’s return on Nov. 20.

If that sounds low, consider that fewer than five people have turned out for 56 of the van’s 153 stops between its July start and Oct. 23, the most recent date available. Thirteen of those low turnouts were among the Department of Health and Human Services’ 17 visits to state parks. 

In those three months, the van has administered 1,176 vaccines, according to information provided by Health and Human Services. Of those, 825 were first doses, 157 second doses, and 194 third doses and boosters.

The van will add the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 once the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices issues its recommendations for that age group, Health and Human Services spokeswoman Laura Montenegro said.

“The mobile vaccine units meet Granite Staters in their communities to provide COVID-19 vaccinations and act as a grassroots resource for those who may have questions about the vaccine,” she said. “The mobile vaccine units have provided vaccines at businesses – which made the vaccine particularly convenient for second- and third-shift workers; at homeless shelters – ensuring that those who may not have identification or a primary care provider still have access to vaccines; and in areas of the state where vaccination rates are lagging.”

With the department’s addition this week of a fourth mobile vaccine van, First Parish Church’s approach may offer some guidance. (Mobile vans are also bringing vaccinations and boosters to people who are homebound, though these vaccines are not reflected in the stops included in this story.)

Montenegro said the department has also seen these clinics, along with the Regional Public Health Networks, reach racial and ethnic minorities at a higher proportion. She said, “We believe this supports that supposition that bringing the vaccine to the community in coordination with local community organizations and leaders is an effective way to reach populations that have been and continue to be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.”

Sandra Potter, the church member organizing First Parish Church’s effort, attributed their success to two things: weekend stops and an aggressive advertising campaign that included not only the church’s internal newsletter and sign, but also newspaper ads, fliers in local stores, and the Dover Download, the city’s weekly newsletter.

The church has no plans to stop partnering with the van. “We just want to get the community vaccinated,” Potter said. 

Health and Human Services promotes the van stops on its Facebook page and at, where the van can also be requested.

The van, however, has not appeared to be part of the state’s $1.4 million advertising campaign, being led by GYK Antler. It’s unclear how the state and firm planned the overall vaccine promotion messaging or how they are measuring the campaign’s effectiveness at boosting the vaccination rate, which has lagged at about 54 percent since late June. Neither GYK Antler nor Health and Human Services has returned multiple messages seeking information about that campaign. 

According to information provided by Health and Human Services, four van stops at the University of New Hampshire have been the most successful. Nearly 100 vaccines were administered, 40 in August and 61 in October, after students returned to campus. Cardigan Mountain School, a private boarding and day school for boys in grades six through 12, has also had among the best turnouts with 55 vaccines administered in September, at the start of the school year.

That’s a much higher response than the four days at the North Haverhill Fair, Londonderry Old Home Day, and Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, home of the Fisher Cats, all of which drew fewer than five people.

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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.