New Hampshire’s vaccine van is ready to roll out shots

  • The mobile vaccination van —Courtesy

  • The mobile vaccination van Courtesy photograph

  • The mobile vaccination van Courtesy

Concord Monitor
Published: 7/31/2021 9:42:46 PM
Modified: 7/31/2021 9:42:47 PM

A purple van with a boy in a green shirt sporting a mask and a Band-Aid is the latest image of the state’s effort to vaccinate New Hampshire against COVID-19.

Now the shot is coming to fairs, farmers markets and other community events, including the North Haverhill Fair this weekend. The van’s deployment, and subsequent shots, are free of charge, with Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines all offered.

“The mobile vaccine van is a natural evolution in our efforts to get the vaccine out,” said Dr. Ben Chan, state epidemiologist for the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. “We aren’t requiring people to schedule appointments and come to us. We are going to them with the vaccine.”

For Chan, the van has two main benefits — the ability to reach communities that have faced barriers with vaccine appointments, whether that be scheduling conflicts or transportation issues, and the chance to provide vaccine-hesitant people with more information and an easier time getting the shot.

“People don’t have to figure out where to go for a vaccine, don’t have to go through the process of signing up and scheduling themselves. We want to bring the vaccine to them,” he said. “The mobile vaccine van is one way to do that.”

To staff and operate the van, the state has partnered with ConvenientMD, a walk-in and virtual urgent care provider across the state. Four to five people operate the van at a time, depending on the estimated number of vaccines to be distributed at each location.

When the van arrives at an event, staff set up a tent with a table and chairs adjacent to the vehicle. This is where people receive their shots.

Vaccine vials are stored in a refrigerator cooler in the van. Tables, chairs and other equipment, like vaccine information handouts, are easily transported inside as well.

The goal of the van is all about accessibility. People can walk up and receive a shot on the spot. Translators are also on-site to help with administration.

“The mobile vaccine van can go anywhere people live and work, meeting people where they are,” said Tricia Tilley, the director of the Department of Health and Human Services Division of Public Health.

For people who receive Moderna or Pfizer and need a second shot, information is provided as to where to get a second dose in case the van does not return to the same location again. Those receiving a vaccination can also opt for the single Johnson & Johnson shot.

With the new mobile effort, Chan hopes to increase vaccination numbers across the state.

“We still have a ways to go in terms of getting the highest rates possible in our state,” Chan said.

As of Thursday, 53.8% of the Granite State was fully vaccinated, and 58.4% of people have at least one shot.

Within its first two weeks of operation, the Department of Health and Human Services has received over 100 requests for the van and scheduled more than 50 clinics. Appointments are currently being scheduled through September.

Although the van is bringing the vaccine to communities, there are also more than 100 locations still offering free vaccinations across the state, according to Chan.

“The mobile van is one way we are looking to get vaccination out into the community. But COVID-19 vaccines remain readily available throughout the state; there’s no shortage of vaccines,” he said. “Even if the mobile van isn’t coming to someone in the community, COVID-19 vaccines remain readily available.”

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