The two vaccine-related contracts that led protesters to shut down the last Executive Council meeting remain on the agenda for this week’s meeting. But the new location suggests security will be more of a priority.
The council is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Police Standards and Training Council on the NHTI campus in Concord that serves as a training facility for all law enforcement in the state. Gov. Chris Sununu said following the abrupt cancellation of the Sept. 29 meeting that the council would look for a more secure setting for its next meeting.
“We have an open and accessible process in New Hampshire,” he said then. “We’re not going to tolerate the idea that (the protesters) can somehow stop our process. I really don’t know what’s going to happen with the contracts, but there is a process here. It’s a fair process. It’s good government.”
Sununu spokesman Ben Vihstadt said the site was “chosen due to its accessibility, security, and venue size, allowing for public access while also ensuring a safe and orderly democratic process.”
The two federal contracts, worth $27 million, would allow the state Department of Health and Human Services to hire 13 temporary workers for vaccination outreach. Department officials have said the additional staff is critical to boosting the state’s vaccination rate, which has been stalled at about 61 percent of all eligible residents since July.
The contracts require approval from the Executive Council and Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee, but both have tabled them under pressure from those opposed to the vaccine itself and/or the new federal vaccine mandate. The chairman of the fiscal committee resigned last week after sharing conspiracy-laden material about the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Attorney General’s Office tried to assuage legal concerns raised by some opponents Friday when it released a statement saying nothing in the contracts obligates the state to follow all federal COVID-19 responses, including the federal vaccine mandate. Opponents were not convinced.
It is unclear if and when either group will take up the contracts. The fiscal committee is scheduled to meet next on Oct. 22 but has not posted its agenda. Executive councilors will consider them Wednesday only if they agree to untable them first.