Gov. Janet Mills announced Friday, March 19, the acceleration of the state's COVID-19 vaccination timeline.

Beginning Tuesday, March 23, Maine residents 50 and older will be eligible to be vaccinated at any site throughout the state. Residents 16 and older will be eligible for vaccination starting Monday, April 19.

The accelerated timeline comes as some Maine vaccine providers are reporting availability of appointments and the state anticipates an increase in vaccine supply from the federal government by the end of March.

Mills said, “Maine has been working around the clock to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible. As we continue to make progress, and with more appointments becoming available and an increase in supply expected in the coming weeks, we believe it is appropriate to accelerate our timeline and make more people eligible earlier.”

Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew of the Department of Health and Human Services said nearly two out of every three Mainers 60 and older have now been protected with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and the state is prepared to open up appointments to even more Maine people.

Dr. Nirav D. Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said, “With weekly vaccine allocations expected to increase in the near future, we can move ahead with vaccinating all Maine adults.”

Vaccination for residents aged 50 and older was previously scheduled to begin on April 1, and for all adults on May 1, 2021.

Maine is also implementing the Biden administration’s directive to vaccinate teachers, school staff, and licensed child care workers this month. The Maine Departments of Education and Health and Human Services have hosted vaccination clinics for Maine teachers age 60 and older.

As with all changes in eligibility, it will take some time for some vaccine clinics to begin to schedule appointments and administer COVID-19 vaccines. Some sites may now begin accepting appointments for residents 50 and older, while others are preparing to offer appointments in the coming days.

To date, more than 352,000 Maine people have received their first dose of the vaccine — more than 26% of the population, with nearly 16% being fully vaccinated. Approximately 64% of Maine people age 60 or older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, with 35% completing the vaccine series.  Maine currently ranks fifth best nationwide for the percentage of its population fully vaccinated.

The Mills administration continues to take steps to expand the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine in Maine, including starting large-scale vaccination sites — most recently in Portland, Sanford, and Auburn — that are prepared to expand their capacity to get shots into arms with an increase in the supply of vaccine from the federal government.

Further, the state is continuing to expand vaccinations in rural and hard-to-reach communities and for Maine people who are homebound and at community health centers for underserved areas.

Independent pharmacies and emergency medical services clinicians are visiting independent senior living communities to vaccinate residents on-site, and public health nurses are holding clinics throughout the state to meet the needs of at-risk Maine people who cannot easily travel to large-scale community vaccination clinics.

Despite having the oldest median age population in the country, Maine, adjusted for population, ranks third-lowest in total number of COVID-19 cases and fourth-lowest in number of deaths from COVID-19, according to the U.S. CDC.

The state’s seven-day positivity rate is the fourth-lowest in the nation, according to Johns Hopkins testing tracker. Additionally, according to Moody’s Analytics and CNN Business’s “Back to Normal Index," Maine is best in New England in returning to pre-pandemic economic activity.

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