AUGUSTA— On Jan. 28, The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced that the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) has placed another order for first doses of COVID-19 vaccine, for 20,375 people, to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Operation Warp Speed. This is an increase of 16 percent, or 2,800 doses, over the last amount and is expected to remain the same for the next three weeks. Governor Janet Mills welcomed the Biden Administration’s increase as well as its decision to offer visibility into the subsequent weeks’ allocations, which will allow for better planning efforts for Maine’s accessible, flexible and equitable distribution of the vaccine.
Maine CDC’s order reflects the maximum number of doses available to Maine for new vaccines. Maine CDC’s order will comprise 8,775 doses from Pfizer and 11,600 doses from Moderna for the eighth week of distribution. Additionally, vaccination sites have begun to receive and administer the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine for individuals vaccinated in the first weeks of distribution.
Combined with the previous orders, Maine expects to have enough to vaccinate approximately 155,525 people in the first eight weeks of distribution.
Since COVID-19 vaccination began in Maine on Dec. 15, 2020, 128,704 doses have been given to health care workers, long-term care residents and older Mainers, including 97,033 people who have received first doses and 31,671 people who have received second doses.
“It’s heartening to see how many Maine people want to be vaccinated, but we all need to remain patient,” said Dr. Nirav D. Shah, director of the Maine CDC. “As our federal partners strive to make more doses available, the best things we can do are to wear masks, stay 6-feet apart, wash hands often and avoid nonessential gatherings.”
Maine is completing Phase 1A and starting Phase 1B under its vaccine strategy. Phase 1A includes patient-facing health care personnel, emergency service personnel such as police and firefighters and people who support infrastructure critical to Maine’s COVID-19 response as determined by the Maine CDC. Phase 1B includes older Maine residents, beginning with those 70 and older; followed by people ages 65 to 69. Additional information on others in Phase 1B, Phase 1C and Phase 2 will be released as more information becomes available on the vaccine supply and pace of vaccination in Maine.
In the eighth week of distribution, the 20,375 first doses of vaccine will be sent to hospitals (11,925), outpatient groups (4,050), public safety (1,600) and organizations helping to vaccine people in long-term care facilities not in the retail pharmacy program (2,800). Maine has paused on sending additional vaccine to the retail pharmacy program operated by the U.S. CDC, as it has sufficient vaccine doses for the coming week.
In an effort to reach older Mainers who face challenges getting a vaccine, DHHS is sending letters to 31,000 MaineCare members age 70 and older with information about where they can get a vaccine and how they can access support for transportation. Additionally, the department is working to direct more vaccine to federally qualified health centers. Among those receiving an allocation this week is the B Street Health Center, which serves many new Mainers through its services in the Lewiston area, and a consortium of federally qualified health centers working to vaccinate older Mainers throughout Washington County. Area Agencies on Aging are also available to help older Mainers who need assistance getting vaccinated with finding options in their area. Individuals can call (877) 353-3771 toll free to be directed to their local area Agency on Aging office based on their county of residence.
While the upcoming increase is encouraging, the amount of vaccines already received combined with the next three weeks is enough for less than half of the Maine residents age 70 and older who have yet to get their first doses. Mainers are encouraged to be patient since the federal supply of vaccine falls far short of demand. Additional information on vaccination for people age 70 and older in Maine is available at Maine’s COVID-19 vaccine website.
Separately, Maine CDC learned from the federal government that the 4,400 doses of Moderna vaccine that arrived in Maine with potential temperature variations outside the prescribed range may be safely and effectively used.
The state is committed to vaccinating at high velocity and not wasting any doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. This means that some individuals are vaccinated before others and not always precisely in the order of the phases in the Maine vaccine plan. That said, the work will not stop until every resident in Maine who wants and needs a vaccine gets one.
Maine’s planning for COVID-19 vaccine distribution began in spring 2020. The vaccine distribution framework will continue to evolve with the changing vaccine supply and continued input from health care providers and various communities throughout Maine.