The New Hampshire Executive Council voted 4-0 on Wednesday to accept and spend more than $22 million to help increase the vaccination rate in New Hampshire.

Last month, the council voted 4-1 to reject $27 million in federal vaccination funding over Republican members' concerns about vaccine mandates.

That move delayed the state's rollout of booster shots and vaccinations for children, according to Commissioner Lori Shibinette of the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Gov. Chris Sununu praised the council’s latest vote.

"My administration worked with the council to find a solution to move forward in a bipartisan manner and ensure we got these funds out to help with vaccine distribution and a variety of other issues, as well," Sununu said.

The compromise was a nonbinding resolution condemning vaccine mandates and calling for the New Hampshire immunization registry to become an opt-in program.

Republican councilors Joseph Kenney, Janet Stevens and David Wheeler joined Democrat Cinde Warmington in voting to approve and spend the funds.

"I think it's the best of both worlds," Wheeler said. "Those who want to get the vaccination, the resources will be there so they can get the vaccination, while protecting the rights of those who don't feel that's for them."

Republican Councilor Ted Gatsas voted "present" in protest, saying that attaching a resolution to a funding item could set a negative precedent.

"How are we as a council doing things we shouldn't be doing?" Gatsas said. "Because now. we're going to be seeing 'whereas-es' coming before this council almost every agenda item we have if we disagree."

Warmington, the lone vote in favor of the vaccine funding a month ago, disagreed with the resolution language but said moving the funding forward was more important.

"It's a meaningless resolution," she said. "It's intended to give political cover to people who made a wrong vote the first time, and they got enough political pressure that they changed their vote, and I'm glad they did. They did the right thing today. This is the right thing for the people of New Hampshire."

The funding still faces another high hurdle. It has to get past the House Fiscal Committee, which meets next on Nov. 19.

The Executive Council recently approved almost $5 million in work-around vaccine funding taken from appropriations in the American Rescue Plan Act. Lori Shibinette said at Wednesday's COVID-19 briefing she plans to bring forward another funding item that will use CDC money instead and then repurpose the rescue funds back into the programs for which they were originally intended.

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