Getting his shot

RiverMead CEO Bill James receives a COVID-19

vaccine Dec. 22.

As part of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout, area first responders, and nursing home residents and staff are starting to get their shots.

New Hampshire received the first round of vaccines in mid-December, and the doses were given immediately to health-care workers most at risk of contracting the viral disease.

The latest batches are going to others at high risk, including additional health-care workers as well as first responders and residents and staff at long-term care facilities, according to the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services.

It will take about six to 12 months for the general public to get the vaccine, the state health department said.

Two vaccines — which are administered in two doses, about a month apart — were approved for emergency-use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration late last month.

Both vaccines — one by Pfizer-BioNTech, the other by Moderna — show a 95 percent efficacy rate, the FDA says.

Vaccinations have already begun in some local nursing homes, while others are slated to start this week.

Nationwide, these facilities — many of which have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic — are partnering with either CVS or Walgreens to administer the shots on-site to staff and residents. This is in part to reduce the burden on facility staff while also ensuring the vaccine is properly administered, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Maplewood Nursing Home in Westmoreland is scheduled to have its first clinic with CVS on Monday.

Administrator Kathryn Kindopp said the facility will get 330 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

“This amount is sufficient to vaccinate all current residents and staff that have indicated they will agree to receive the vaccine at this time,” she said in an email, “so we are fortunate in that we won’t need to triage or limit access.”

Genesis Healthcare — which has facilities in Keene, Winchester and Peterborough — has already begun vaccinating residents and staff through CVS, according to spokeswoman Lori Mayer.

Pheasant Wood Center in Peterborough, Keene Center and Applewood Rehabilitation Center in Winchester all had their first round of immunizations in the past two weeks, she said.

Another clinic, Mayer added, is scheduled for Wednesday at Langdon Place of Keene.

“In advance of each scheduled clinic, we need to let CVS know how many vaccines they need to bring, based on the number of staff members and residents who have agreed to receive the vaccine,” she said in an email. “CVS has been bringing the appropriate number.”

Hillside Village, a retirement community that includes long-term care in Keene, had not received its clinic dates as of Monday, according to Executive Director Jolynn Whitten.

RiverMead, a senior-living community in Peterborough, said vaccines were given last month to all staff and to residents of its assisted-living and memory-care units.

It’s a different protocol for first responders, who will get their shots at one of 13 vaccination sites set up across the state. They include locations in Keene — on the Keene State College campus — and Claremont.

Peterborough Fire Chief Ed Walker said he sent a list to the state, ranking his employees from most to least urgent based on how many interactions they have with the public.

With the list submitted, employees can fill out an application saying they want a COVID-19 vaccine and schedule an appointment.

Walker said he got vaccinated in Keene on Thursday morning, and several members of his department did so last week as well.

He wasn’t sure how many of his 65 employees will get the vaccine, and those who choose not to are required to continue following the typical safety protocols, such as donning a face mask, just like everyone else.

“I think a lot of people are adamant that they will get vaccinated, and a lot of what plays into this for individuals isn’t just the role they have as a provider here,” he said. “Some of them are in at-risk populations, and we have other folks who are caregivers ... or who have children who are at high-risk for complications.”

Six of the eight full-time employees at the Winchester Police Department have opted for the vaccine, according to Winchester Police Chief Mike Tollett.

He was vaccinated Thursday in Keene and said it’s been a “fairly smooth process” for his staff to schedule their appointments.

Keene Fire Chief Mark Howard said Keene firefighters started the vaccination process on Wednesday. He added that he wasn’t sure how many of his 45 staff members would sign up for the shot.

“I plan on being vaccinated once my number is called,” he said in an email, “and encourage the community to become familiar with the two current vaccines approved by the FDA and what risk, side effects etc. are involved so they can make informed decisions on the process.”

Employees of the Keene Police Department have also started getting vaccinated, Keene Police Chief Steve Russo said.

Russo said he wasn’t sure how many of his 71 staff members will get immunized.

Many of those interviewed said the vaccination process was working well.

Cheshire County Administrator Chris Coates added that though it may seem like the rollout will take a while, he has faith in the state health department’s plan.

“It’s so massive an undertaking, and when you want something so bad it feels you are moving in slow motion,” he said. “But I do believe that we are going as fast as we can.”

Olivia Belanger can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1439, or obelanger@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @OBelangerKS.