New Hampshire debates vaccines for out-of-state students

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Published: Mar. 31, 2021 at 1:17 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 31, 2021 at 6:17 PM EDT
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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Out-of-state college students still appear to be out of luck when it comes to getting the coronavirus vaccine in New Hampshire.

Gov. Chris Sununu said last week that only New Hampshire residents would be eligible for the vaccine when eligibility expands Friday to include anyone age 16 and over, and that out-of-state college students should return to their home states to get vaccinated. He said Wednesday that position hasn’t changed, despite an announcement from a nonprofit consortium that includes 21 public and private campuses.

“The New Hampshire College and University Council has entered into discussions with the Governor’s Office to identify a timeframe for out of state students to be eligible for the state’s VINI registration program,” said Michele Perkins, chair of the council and president of New England College.

She said colleges recognized the need to prioritize New Hampshire residents, but as the vaccine process unfolds ahead of the original schedule, they are hopeful the state will offer the vaccine to all students who want it.

But Sununu’s office said any suggestion that the process is changing is “patently false.”

“Our office received a phone call from the NH College and University Council, where we reiterated that New Hampshire residents cannot be put behind out of state, low-risk college students,” Sununu spokesperson Ben Vihstadt said in an email.

If vaccine supply increases, the requirements for residency likely will change, he said. But fully vaccinating students before they depart for the summer would mean pushing back appointment dates for New Hampshire residents, and giving students only one dose would create confusion around their second doses, he said.

Earlier Wednesday, Democratic lawmakers and college students held a news conference to object to the governor’s decision.

“Vaccinating the student population would save lives and livelihoods,” said Hannah Dunleavy, a student at Dartmouth College.

“Clearly, students at Dartmouth are contracting COVID-19 at high rates, and we risk spreading the virus to people in the town of Hanover if we don’t vaccinate students,” she said. “The virus doesn’t care if we live in New Hampshire nine months out of the year or all year round.”

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