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The New Hampshire Executive Council has rejected millions of dollars in federal funds to support the state's COVID-19 vaccine programs.
The $27 million in federal funding is meant to help the state expand vaccinations, which have lagged for several months. But the Republican-controlled council voted 4-1 on Wednesday along party lines to reject two contracts to accept the funds.
The rejection came despite efforts by Gov. Chris Sununu and state public health officials to convince skeptical council members and amid the backdrop of dozens of anti-vaccine protestors who packed into the meeting. Several protestors were arrested for disrupting the proceedings.
At a news briefing later, Sununu blasted the decision and said it shows a "reckless disregard" for lives and the state's COVID-19 efforts to vaccinate more people.
"There is not a single state that has voted to reject these funds, from Texas to Florida, South Dakota to Mississippi," Sununu told reporters. "These are our taxpayer dollars that would have successfully bolstered our state’s very successful vaccination efforts.”
Sununu said the state's health care system is already struggling amid staffing shortages and the loss of the federal funding "shifts our state's response efforts to an already overburdened health care industry" to expand COVID-19 vaccinations and testing.
The council had tabled a vote on the contract several weeks ago, after Republican councilors cited concerns about the effectiveness of the vaccines and whether accepting the grant money would bind the state to federal mandates.
The council was expected to take up the issue again at its Sept. 30 meeting, but the vote was canceled after anti-vaccine protesters disrupted the proceedings.
On Wednesday, Democrats pointed fingers at Sununu for sending mixed messages about the COVID-19 vaccines by vowing to challenge President's Joe Biden's federal vaccine mandates as he pushed for approval of the federal contracts.
New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley said the vote shows that Sununu "has abdicated leadership of the state’s handling of the pandemic and efforts to vaccinate more Granite Staters."
"For months Sununu enabled anti-vaccine rhetoric and loudly opposed vaccine requirements – and today he reaped what he sowed," he said in a statement. "The governor’s inability to convince his own party to accept federal funding for much-needed public health measures shows a complete lack of leadership and is a defeat for public health in our state."
Sununu rejected those claims at Wednesday's news briefing, saying he pushed "as hard as he could" to convince council members to accept the money.
"At the end of the day, there was no rationale for voting it down," he said.
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Original Author: Christian Wade | The Center Square
Original Location: New Hampshire Executive Council rejects federal vaccine contracts