COVID-19 vaccine

PETERBOROUGH — Monadnock Community Hospital will require COVID-19 vaccination among its employees by November, the hospital announced Wednesday.

The Peterborough hospital, which had previously said it would adopt such a requirement but hadn’t yet specified a date, is the third and last in the area to do so.

“In light of our community’s relatively low COVID-19 vaccination rate and a surge in infections from the Delta variant, employee vaccinations against COVID-19 are critical to ensure safe environments of care for our staff and for our patients,” Cynthia McGuire, president and CEO of Monadnock Community Hospital, said in a news release Wednesday announcing the mandate.

The release was emailed to The Sentinel in response to multiple requests.

In communities surrounding the hospital, vaccination rates vary. In Dublin and Peterborough, for example, the rates of full immunization are fairly high, at 62.2 and 58.2 percent, respectively, according to data as of Tuesday from the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services. That compares to 54.1 percent statewide.

But in towns like Rindge and Jaffrey, state data show the rates are much lower, at 34.9 and 44.4 percent.

All Monadnock Community Hospital staff and service providers must be fully vaccinated against the viral disease by Nov. 1, according to the release, which says employees may request a religious or medical exemption.

Exemptions will also be reviewed on a case-by-case basis for staff who are pregnant or breastfeeding, according to the release, though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has deemed all three COVID-19 vaccines — by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — safe for those populations.

About 85 percent of the hospital’s approximately 500 employees are already vaccinated, the release says.

Monadnock Community Hospital’s announcement comes weeks after other area hospitals implemented their own vaccination mandates.

Starting Sept. 30, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health employees — including those who work at Cheshire Medical Center in Keene — are required to get the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a news release last month from the health system.

And across the river, where Vermont continues to lead the country in vaccination rates, Brattleboro Memorial Hospital employees are required to get inoculated by Oct. 1, the hospital announced last month.

Religious and medical reasons are the only exemptions allowed, officials from both hospitals said previously, and otherwise an employee who doesn’t get vaccinated will be subject to termination.

Genesis Healthcare — a Pennsylvania-based nursing home company with area locations in Keene, Winchester and Peterborough — also implemented its own mandate last month.

Other local nursing homes have not yet followed suit, though they will most likely be forced to under a new federal requirement.

President Joe Biden announced last month that nursing homes and long-term care facilities must require all workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of Medicare and Medicaid funding. The deadline is not yet clear, according to various news reports about the announcement.

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

Olivia Belanger is the health reporter for The Sentinel, covering issues from the opioid crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic to mental health services in the region. A N.H. native, she joined The Sentinel team in August 2019.