The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said it condemns Webster Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Rye of allegedly "cutting in line" for the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a statement provided to Seacoast Current.

Webster was included in the federal Pharmacy Partnership Program, which means they partnered with a pharmacy to administer vaccines. DHHS Director Jake Leon said Webster essentially admitted that board members skipped the line to get vaccinated.

“In response to concerns raised about Webster at Rye’s vaccination process," Leon told Seacoast Current, "Commissioner (Lori) Shibinette contacted the facility regarding this allegation. The facility admitted that when it provided its staffing list to the federal Pharmacy Partnership Program, board members were included as staff so they could be vaccinated by their Pharmacy Partners.”

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The state’s vaccine distribution plan is just wrapping up Phase 1A, which includes vaccinating at-risk health workers, first responders and residents of long-term care facilities. Phase 1B, which begins Friday, will focus on correctional staff, remaining health workers, facilities with disabled residents and people over the age of 65 who are medically vulnerable. Phase 3B, slated for May or beyond, is when the vaccine will be available to members of the public who do not qualify for other earlier phases.

Webster CEO Thomas Argue said he invited board members to receive the vaccine after nurses and aides.

Argue issued the following statement to Seacoast Current:

Based on information that CVS was vaccinating all staff who wanted to receive the vaccine regardless of their job description, and that the vaccine was available to ‘paid and unpaid’ individuals, the decision was made to include our all-volunteer governing board in those receiving the vaccine based on their fiduciary responsibility to oversee the operation of Webster at Rye as directors, the age of many of them, and their responsibility to enter the facility at times during the pandemic.

All board members received their vaccines after 5 p.m. when the clinic was scheduled to end. A couple of last minute staff arrived after the board members and were asked to move ahead and receive their vaccine first, and did-so.

Webster has not had a COVID-19 case in the resident population, Argue said.

Still, state health officials said Webster used vaccine doses that should have gone to individuals at greater risk of COVID-19 complications.

“The department condemns the facility’s decision to allow its board members to ‘cut in line’ to get the vaccine by prioritizing board members alongside their direct caregivers," Leon said. "Vaccine supplies remain very limited, and any doses provided to individuals not eligible for the first phase are doses that aren’t available to vaccinate people who are most at risk of severe complications if exposed to the virus.”

As of now, the state does not plan to take action, saying they believe it to be an isolated event.

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