Starting April 2, New Hampshire residents age 16 and older will be eligible for the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination, said Gov. Chris Sununu in a press conference on March 25. This decision, however, does not include out-of-state college students or international students.
The exclusion of out-of-state college students from vaccinations has been taken as a troubling announcement for towns like Durham that are primarily considered college towns. Of the University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) more than 15,000 total students, approximately 44% are in-state students who would be eligible for the vaccine in the state.
In the town of Durham’s Friday Update on March 26, Durham Town Administrator Todd Selig called on Sununu to rethink this action for the sake of the town.
“Admin. Selig has urged that this approach be revisited, indicating that the development of a vaccination POD for students at the University of New Hampshire in Durham (and in other college towns), similar to what was just undertaken for ORCSD staff, would present significant public health benefits for host communities like Durham,” the update said.
The update also suggested using the “one and done” Johnson & Johnson vaccination in order to vaccinate the UNH and Durham communities in a swift manner.
In a prepared statement, Selig said, “Vaccinating college students as soon as possible in host communities with large concentrations of students like Durham, Keene, Plymouth, Hanover, New London, etc. is very important for the health and welfare of all of our municipalities, our residents, and for the state as a whole.”
Sununu justified his decision in a press conference, stating one reason for his decision – that many colleges are approaching the end of the academic year and there would not be enough time for them to receive their second dose prior to going home.
“Even from a practical standpoint, it doesn’t make much sense to offer it to out-of-state college students that are currently here. It just makes more sense for them to go back to their state, be part of their system, and get the vaccine while they’re home,” said Sununu.
In addition to Selig’s efforts to get Sununu to rethink his decision, according to Seacoast Online, nonprofit New Hampshire College and University Council (NHCUC) is also urging Sununu to change his mind. The council is a consortium of 21 public and private colleges and universities in New Hampshire including UNH.
NHCUC Chair and President of New England College Michele Perkins said, “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.”
While Sununu’s decision currently stands, New Hampshire residents continue to urge him to reconsider. In an opinion piece with InDepthNH.org, former state epidemiologist Rich DiPentima wrote that he felt Sununu’s decision “makes no public health sense and places NH residents at risk.”
“This virus does not know the difference between a student who is a NH resident and one who is a resident of another state living in one of our college towns,” stated DiPentima.
Photo courtesy of the University of New Hampshire.