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Least vaccinated counties see highest COVID numbers

  • About two dozen protesters stood at the corner of 12th and Hutchins Streets on Wednesday to voice their concerns over an employee vaccine mandate issued recently by North Country Healthcare, of which Androscoggin Valley Hospital is one of the member hospitals.Pictured from front to back are Jason Hutter, Malcolm Longenecker and Kathy Longenecker. Rita Dube

Monitor staff
Published: 10/14/2021 12:00:52 PM

COVID-19 cases are surging in counties of New Hampshire with the lowest low vaccination rates.

The “Live Free or Die” state currently holds the title for both the lowest vaccination rate in New England and the highest case per capita ratio of COVID-19 cases. The recent climbing numbers appears to be driven by cases in Sullivan and Coos County, the least vaccinated counties in New Hampshire.

State epidemiologist Ben Chan said the pressure on hospitals is spreading.

“We continue to have high to substantial levels of community transmission across the state and I think that’s putting strain on all of our healthcare organizations,” he said.

COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to dramatically reduce the risk of infection, hospitalization and death from the virus. Between Jan. 2020 and Sep. 2021, about 96% percent of those infected with COVID-19 in New Hampshire were not fully vaccinated, according to a report from the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy. The same report found that about 93% of those hospitalized for COVID-19 were unvaccinated.

Unvaccinated Americans are 11 times more likely to die from the coronavirus, a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found. Yet the vaccine remains controversial among many who view it as an experimental government-pushed drug.

Many towns in Coos County have vaccination rates below the state average of 54.5%, according to data from the N.H. Department of Health and Human Service. For example, Northumberland, a town of about 2,000, has vaccinated less than a quarter of its eligible residents. Similarly, in some towns in Sullivan county, vaccination rates remain far below average. Coos and Sullivan are the only counties with less than half of its residents vaccinated.

Hospitals in Coos County beginning to see a dramatic increase in COVID-19 patients — admissions have increased by 419% in Coos County in the last 2 weeks, according to data from the New York Times.

Lori Shibinette, the Commissioner of the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services, said she recently met with officials from Androscoggin Valley Hospital, who are seeing a larger surge of patients than they’ve seen in 20 months.

Shibinette said the state sent hundreds of rapid tests and extra tanks of oxygen at the officials’ requests. She said if the hospital is no longer able to offer a high level of care, other hospitals will meet to discuss taking patients to lighten the load.

State health officials have invested in making available monoclonal antibodies, an IV-administered medication that has been shown to improve outcomes for COVID patients, to keep patients out of hospitals, and ease the strain on the healthcare system. The Department of Health has posted a map of places monoclonal antibodies are available to COVID-positive patients with a doctor’s referral.

“The really big item is preventing hospitalizations and doing that by increasing your vaccination rates and then by very liberal use of monoclonal antibodies,” Shibinette said at a press conference last month.

Hospital beds surrounding Sullivan County are also filling up with COVID patients. The providers that serve the county, like Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital and Valley Regional Hospital, have fewer than 3% of their intensive care unit beds open and staffed.




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