ELLSWORTH — Governor Janet Mills announced Nov. 17 that effective immediately, all Mainers ages 18 and older who received their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines at least six months ago are eligible for a booster shot to enhance immunity against COVID-19.
Those who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine are eligible for a booster after two months.
On the same day Mills made that announcement, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 1,042 new cases of COVID-19 since the day before, Nov. 16.
“That is among the highest one-day totals of COVID-19 cases that Maine has seen throughout the pandemic,” said Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah at the CDC’s Nov. 17 briefing.
Booster shots are available wherever COVID-19 vaccines are administered, he said.
The positivity rate of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests continues to climb statewide. On Nov. 18, the rate was 9.03, up from 5.9 two weeks prior.
Shah noted that testing volume has increased “in a good way,” and the number of vaccines doses administered has also gone up, with an increase of 21 percent in the week leading up to the Nov. 17 briefing.
Shah explained the reasoning for the extended eligibility was twofold.
“Recent data from the U.S. CDC and the Maine CDC continued to both show high, sustained rates of community transmission across all of Maine’s 16 counties,” Shah said. He noted that because the state hit the ground running when vaccination first became available, immunity among vaccinated people has waned, something he said was not unique to the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Because we vaccinated a lot of people, and we did so early on, the potential for some drop in effect may be more pronounced here in Maine than perhaps in other states,” Shah said. “That’s where boosters come in.”
The other reason was for clarity purposes.
Shah reported that the Maine CDC was getting calls from individuals who were eligible for boosters but were unsure, which kept them from accessing the extra shot.
Shah reiterated that people who got their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines at least six months ago, and people who received the one-dose series of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine two months ago, are eligible for a booster shot. He said people can stick with the same vaccine they received initially, or “mix and match.”
“You can and should go get a booster,” Shah said. “It is that straightforward.”
Maine joins at least four other states that have extended booster eligibility to all adults.
On the vaccination front for children, since the emergency approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, nearly 15 percent (or 14,209 children) of the entire population of 5 to 11-year-olds in the state had received a dose of the vaccine last week.
“We are off to a strong start there,” Shah said. “We just want to keep that momentum going.”
The Maine CDC also reported 11 COVID-related deaths Nov. 18. One of those deaths was a person from Hancock County.
Ten of the reported deaths were identified through vital records review that occurred between Oct. 25 and Nov. 8.