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Mobile vaccination clinic launches next week

290 new COVID-19 cases since yesterday
By Fran Gonzalez | Apr 06, 2021

Augusta — Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew of the Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday, April 6, at the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention briefing that she is relieved that tomorrow the focus will be on how to get the majority of people in Maine vaccinated.

Starting April 7, Mainers 16 and over will be eligible for COVID-19 shots. Lambrew said it was like "putting aside the eligibility rule and focusing on getting shots into arms."

The Mills administration, in collaboration with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is launching a mobile vaccination unit that will travel across the state administering COVID-19 vaccinations to underserved rural communities.

Lambrew said the mobile unit will start next Monday, April 12, with a stop at the Oxford Casino. Other stops planned include Fryeburg, Calais, Madawaska and Auburn, to name a few. The state is working with municipal leaders to determine where the mobile clinic will go, she said.

The unit will administer 250 shots of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine a day, with stops lasting between three and five days. Stops will be based on what Lambrew called "social vulnerability."

"COVID-19 has highlighted disparities in our health care system," she said. "This effort allows service to underserved communities... We want to bring the vaccine to these communities."

Appointments are required and she recommended calling the community vaccination hotline at 888-445-4111 to make an appointment. Lambrew said further vaccination schedules for the mobile clinic will be posted on the Maine CDC website in the near future.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, was asked what gaps exist currently within the state. Special efforts have been made, he said, to get vaccine supplies to high-risk people throughout the state.

Those efforts include partnering with oncology and dialysis centers where vulnerable people can be vaccinated. Shah said his agency is working to get doses to community health centers and independent pharmacies.

Lambrew added additional pop-up clinics are planned at senior centers and health centers serving adults with disabilities. "We are letting the community lead us on this," she said.

Shah said that in all, 780,592 doses of COVID-19 shots had been administered in the state so far, including 463,663 first doses and 316,929 second or final doses. This translates to about 34% of people in the state receiving at least the first dose and about 23% completing the vaccine series.

Shah was asked if he thought people were hesitant to get the shot. "I suspect there is a heightened hesitancy across the U.S., and Maine is no different," he said. In comparison to other states, he said, Maine is one of the top-ranking states for people getting vaccinated.

Of the 16 and over age group, 40% have received at least their first dose of the vaccine, while just under 30% have received both.

When asked about variants in the state, Shah said currently there is one case of P1, the variant first identified in Brazil, four cases of 351 variant, which was identified in South Africa, and 15 cases of the 117 variant that was identified in the U.K..

Since yesterday, an additional 290 cases of COVID-19 were reported across the state. Currently 80 people are in the hospital because of the virus, 32 in intensive care units and eight on ventilators. A total of 746 people have died from the disease in Maine since the pandemic began.

Shah said the uptick in cases was concerning, though he said it was hard to know what was driving the increase. The average age of people contracting the disease, he said, is "ticking down," with more younger people being affected.

When making an appointment for vaccination, Shah said, if you are scheduled for a date and another, more convenient, date is becomes available, "cancel out the other appointment so other folks can utilize it."

"This is a great week to find a spot," he said, with increasing vaccine supplies and facilities having capacity to administer them.

To make an appointment or to find the nearest facility, visit maine.gov/covid19/vaccines/vaccination-sites or call the community vaccination hotline at 888-445-4111.

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