Earlier this week, University of New Hampshire (UNH) Student Body President Nicholas Fitzgerald and Student Body Vice President Tyler Silverwood signed a letter with other student governments from Dartmouth College and Plymouth State College urging New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu to expand coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine access to out-of-state college students.  

As previously reported by The New Hampshire, Gov. Sununu explicitly ruled out-of-state students ineligible for vaccines in New Hampshire and said that those students can go back to their home state to get a vaccine.  

The letter to Gov. Sununu is echoed in a Change.org petition started by Silverwood, which has gathered over 1,400 signatures in less than five days. This petition cites many grievances with the current vaccine roll out plan and the dangers it could pose to students and college communities where a considerable amount of the population is ineligible for vaccines.  

“Over 32% of New Hampshire residents live in college towns and this policy increases the risk for each and every one of them,” from the Change.org petition. The petition also cites concerns that students who decide to travel home to receive a vaccine could worsen the spread in the process, and that in reality many students will simply not be vaccinated due to those conditions. 

“Encouraging us to take multiple trips across state lines, in the midst of a deadly pandemic, is not only expensive and unattainable for many of us, it also increases the risk to communities in towns like Durham, Keene, Hanover, and Plymouth,” the petition states. 

The petition also points out that despite issues of vaccine supply driving the decision to not give out-of-state students access to vaccines, every other New England state plans to give out-of-state students access to vaccines as a part of their roll out. UNH currently has over 13,000 undergraduate students with 56% coming from state’s outside of New Hampshire, making out-of-state students a sizeable amount of the Durham-area population.  

Another concern brought up by many UNH out-of-state students is that vaccine allocation by state is based on census population data, which includes out-of-state students as residents of their college town. This means that despite concerns over out-of-state students taking away from New Hampshire residents in terms of vaccine supply, out-of-state students are factored into the state’s vaccine allocation.  

Currently, in order to be considered a New Hampshire resident for vaccine eligibility you must have either a New Hampshire driver’s license or non-driver ID card, or a payroll document/government issued payment delivered to you at a New Hampshire address within the last 60 days. Under these restrictions, some out-of-state students can still be eligible for a vaccine if they jump through the required hoops, but many students, especially those living on-campus, will be unable to qualify. 

While Gov. Sununu has yet to make a statement regarding out-of-state students receiving vaccines, his office has acknowledged that vaccine eligibility could be expanded should vaccine supply increase. New Hampshire is currently ranked first out of U.S. states in both percentage of population to receive one vaccine dose, 42% versus the U.S. average of 33%, and in doses of vaccine allocation used at 90% versus the nationwide average of 77%. 

Photo courtesy of Aqeel Hisham/TNH Staff.