Dr. Nate Mick, Maine Medical Center's vice chairman of Emergency Medicine, receives one of the state's first vaccinations. PHOTO COURTESY OF MMC

First COVID-19 vaccines arrive in Maine

ELLSWORTH — One thousand nine hundred and fifty Pfizer vaccines against COVID-19 arrived in Maine this morning in “the first of a number of significant steps,” Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Nirav Shah announced Monday. The 1,950 doses were delivered to Mercy Hospital in Portland and Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and should be administered beginning Wednesday.

“Collectively, this vaccine and the vaccination process that accompanies it will help us return to normal,” Shah said.

But it will take time. The 1,950 doses received today — and the approximately 3,900 doses scheduled to arrive tomorrow and destined for several hospitals across the state — is only a narrow sliver of the 2.6 million doses needed to immunize the entire population of Maine.

“There’s light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re still in a tunnel,” Shah said.

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The first people to receive the vaccination will be frontline hospital workers: ICU nurses, emergency room personnel, emergency medical responders and hospital staff who work on COVID-19 wings.

For residents and staff of long-term care facilities, “there are very, very detailed and intricate plans” to bring the vaccines to them, Shah added. Those doses are already “earmarked’ for that population, which is considered a top priority for the vaccine. Shah said those vaccinations — “an entirely separate and important parallel process” — could begin as early as next week. The doses will be going directly to commercial pharmacies and then be allocated to specific long-term care facilities. Trained pharmacy personnel will bring the vaccines and inoculate those at the facilities.

As more vaccines arrive, non-frontline health-care providers, elderly residents and those with underlying health conditions will be among those next in line to receive the vaccine. People outside those groups will receive the vaccination last.

Vaccinating the entire state is “a massive undertaking and there will be bumps in the road,” Shah said. “Community-level vaccination may be many months away.”

In the past week, the Maine CDC logged 2,574 new cases, 32 deaths and 28 additional COVID-19 patients in the hospital. Currently, 198 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, with 56 in intensive care units and 17 on ventilators. Shah said there are 97 ICU beds still available across the state.

New outbreaks were reported at Bonny Eagle School, Gorham Middle School, Old Orchard Beach High School, Vassalboro Middle School, Stetson Memorial Church, Benton Elementary School and Ross Manor Long-Term Care Facility.

The seven-day test positivity rate stands at 4.54 percent for PCR tests and 5.25 percent for antigen tests. The two tests detect the presence of COVID-19 in different ways, the molecular level (PCR) and specific proteins of the virus (antigen).

Shah said the vaccine is not an effective treatment for those already infected with COVID-19.

Anne Berleant

Anne Berleant

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Anne Berleant covers news and features in Ellsworth, Mariaville, Otis, Amherst, Aurora, Great Pond and Osborn. When not reporting, find her hiking local trails, reading or watching professional tennis. Email her at [email protected]

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