CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Registration for the next phase of New Hampshire's coronavirus vaccination plan got off to a quick start Friday, with more than 70,000 people signing up in the first hour and more than 147,000 by late afternoon.
Registration opened at 8 a.m. for the approximately 325,000 people in phase 1B of the state’s vaccination plan. That includes anyone age 65 or older, people with at least two qualifying medical conditions, corrections workers, and staff and residents of residential facilities for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
The easiest way to register is via the vaccines.nh.gov website. Those who can’t schedule an appointment online can call the state’s 2-1-1 hotline. While state officials had expected callers to endure wait times of an hour or more, the day started with wait times of about 25 minutes and by noon, callers were waiting under five minutes.
“Today has been remarkably positive and demonstrates that the people of New Hampshire are ready and willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine,” said Lori Shibinette, commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services. “This has truly been a statewide, all-hands-on-deck effort. We applaud the efforts of so many, including the National Guard, 2-1-1 call takers, healthcare providers, and the residents who registered for making today go as smoothly as it has.”
Those who sign up online were told to expect an email about scheduling their appointments within three to five days, but many will receive the messages earlier than that, according to the department.
The first appointments will be scheduled for Tuesday. Scheduling will be handled on a first come, first served basis, so registrants should monitor their email and click on the link as soon as they receive the email. Appointments will be scheduled out as far as necessary, and everyone who registers during this phase will be able to schedule an appointment, a department spokesperson said.
What happens after that remains in flux, depending on how much vaccine the state receives every week and how many people want to sign up.
The state has been getting about 17,000 doses per week. At that rate, vaccinating the entire phase 1B group would take until late May. The state’s current plan calls for starting the next phase in March, however, and state officials expect the vaccine supply to increase soon.
In other coronavirus developments:
Town officials concerned about hosting elections and meetings to adopt their budgets this spring got some leeway Friday under Gov. Chris Sununu’s latest emergency order.
The Senate recently passed a bill to allow the governing bodies of towns and school districts to postpone their March elections to the second Tuesday of April, May, June or July if they are concerned about coronavirus. It’s likely to pass the House, but not until February, making it difficult for communities to plan for March elections and meetings. The order Sununu issued Friday bridges the gap until the bill can be enacted.
Towns also would be allowed to postpone the business or deliberative session of the annual Town Meeting, when budgets are adopted, to later dates. In the event of postponement, elected officials whose terms would have expired would continue. The arrival of the pandemic last spring created confusion and raised questions about the legality of postponing such meetings. Some towns conducted parts of their meeting online and offered drive-up voting instead of the traditional in-person gatherings.
Nearly 70,000 people have tested positive for the virus, with 724 cases reported Friday that included numbers from several previous days. Nine deaths were announced, bringing the total to 971.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire has risen over the past two weeks from 748 new cases per day on Jan. 7 to 788 new cases per day on Thursday.
This story has been updated to correct the spelling of the vaccine registration website.