WHITEFIELD — Julia Doucette was nervous.

The Lancaster Elementary first grader arrived at White Mountains Regional High School on Saturday to receive her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Doucette, 6, worried that the shot would hurt, but she soldiered on.

Turns out it wasn’t that bad. She rolled up her sleeve, closed her eyes, and a split-second later it was over. She barely felt it.

“It was just a little poke,” she shrugged, expressing satisfaction that she overcame her fears and went through with the jab. “I’m proud of myself.

Doucette was one of 58 children ages 5 to 11 to receive their first shot at Saturday’s vaccine clinic, which was hosted by the North Country Public Health Network in partnership with the New Hampshire Immunization Program, Littleton Fire & Rescue, Whitefield EMS, and Whitefield Police.

The Food and Drug Administration cleared the shots for the younger age group on Nov. 2 and over a million kids nationwide have already gotten their first dose, according to White House officials.

Doucette’s father, David, said the vaccine offered another layer of protection for staff and students in the White Mountains Regional School District, which has reported 157 cases (28 active) across three schools during the current school year.

That includes nearly 100 cases to date at hard-hit Lancaster Elementary.

“Every day we were getting 2 or 3 emails, saying that kids at [my daughter’s] school were coming home with COVID,” he said.

Saturday’s clinic vaccinated 210 people in total, also giving out 119 adult COVID boosters, 11 primary-series COVID doses for adults, and 22 flu shots for school-aged children.

Kristen van Bergen-Buteau of the North Country Health Consortium called it “an absolute success.”

She said a second clinic offering COVID and flu vaccines for children and adults will be held at WMRHS on Dec. 4.

Through those clinics, public health officials seek to increase vaccination rates and reduce hospitalizations.

Coos County is among the least vaccinated counties in New Hampshire and Lancaster has the eighth-highest new case rate in the state. Hospitals in the region have been strained by an increase in COVID patients, most of them unvaccinated.

Also a member of the White Mountains Regional School Board, van Bergen-Buteau said the clinic was intended to support local families, and was held on Saturday’s to fit into parents’ schedules, but was completely optional.

“The school district policy is still very clear, we’re encouraging parents to use all mitigation strategies available to them, including vaccination when their kids become eligible,” she said. “The science is really strong but there’s no mandate in our district and there’s no intent to vaccinate kids without their parents full knowledge and consent.”

“We made the information available to parents, but they absolutely had the option to lean in or not.”

Doucette’s mother, Brittany Baxter, believed the vaccinations would alleviate Lancaster’s elevated COVID numbers

“We wanted to stop the spread and help the community,” Baxter said.

She also hoped that childhood vaccinations would allow schools to relax some COVID measures. She looked forward to a time when her daughter, who has masked up since her first day of Kindergarten, could attend classes without a face covering.

Said Baxter, “We’re hoping it can just go back to normal.”


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