ELLSWORTH — Maine residents are receiving the COVID-19 vaccination — but slowly. A total of 53,511 frontline health-care and other workers and residents of long-term care and nursing home facilities have been vaccinated since late December, with 8,493 of them receiving the required second dose, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Executive Director Dr. Nirav Shah said at a Jan. 13 press briefing.
However, Maine is receiving a limited and unpredictable number of doses each week.
“We were getting more doses of vaccines at the end of December than we are right now,” Shah said.
Governor Janet Mills provided an update on the vaccination schedule and when information on receiving a vaccine will be available.
Mainers are receiving vaccinations in phases, with Phase 1A now underway. Mills said that phase should be completed by the beginning of February.
Residents 70 years of age and above may receive their vaccination by the end of January, Mills said, when Phase 1B rolls out. That group also includes those who are at high risk of serious illness or death if they contract COVID-19, first responders such as law enforcement and firefighters, correctional officers and additional health-care workers. Phase 1B is expected to be completed by April.
Those in Phase 1B should check the Maine CDC websitestarting on Jan. 18 for information on how they will receive their first vaccine dose, Mills said. Maine lowered the age for Phase 1B residents from 80 to 70, rather than 65, as the U.S. CDC just did, because 85 percent of COVID-related deaths are occurring to those 70 years old and above.
To administer the vaccine to large-scale groups like Phase 1B —Mills noted that there are 193,000 residents 70 years of age and older — clinics will be created that can handle mass vaccinations.
For the general population, vaccines will be available by spring or summer, Mills said.
For Hancock County residents, Northern Light hospitals areworking with the state to set up large-scale clinics, Northern Light spokesman Dr. James Jarvis said during his own press briefing on Jan. 13.
“We are eagerly awaiting the availability [of vaccines],” Jarvis said.
Northern Light hospitals have administered roughly 10,000 vaccine doses so far. As Maine receives the vaccine in greater numbers, with more hands needed to administer the doses, Northern Light will collaborate with nursing schools, pharmacy schools and other training sites for help.
“There’s a significant number of students who could assist,” Northern Light Senior Vice President Paul Bolin said. “We know that we’ll need more people, and we’re working quickly to ensure we have that number of staff.”
With about 1.4 million residents to be vaccinated, “our biggest challenge is the amount of vaccines we’re receiving,” he added.
Shah also reported an outbreak of six cases at Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital. On Jan. 13, a total of 824 new positive COVID-19 cases were reported in Maine, the highest daily number to date. A total of 31,150 cases have been reported since the pandemic’s start.