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Maine’s COVID-19 vaccination plan expands next week to those 60 and older

The plan also includes vaccinating school staff who are eligible within the age categories.
(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Published: Feb. 26, 2021 at 1:18 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - Governor Mills is moving the state to age-based eligibility when it comes to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and expanding the groups of people who can get the shot. As a result, beginning next Wednesday, March 3, those 60 years and older can begin the vaccination process.

During a Friday news conference, Mills said the update was decided in consultation with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. It reflects recent scientific data indicating that age is among the strongest predictors of whether an individual is likely to get seriously ill and die from COVID-19.

Here is more information from the Governor’s news release:

The planned schedule, which is subject to change depending on fluctuations in vaccine supply including an acceleration if supply increases, is as follows:

March 3: Eligibility expands to residents age 60 and older

April: Eligibility expands to age 50 and older

May: Eligibility expands to age 40 and older

June: Eligibility expands to age 30 and older

July and beyond: Ages 29 and under, including children pending authorization of a vaccine for them

“Throughout the pandemic, my fundamental goal has been to save lives and protect our most vulnerable people. A review of recent data by the Maine CDC indicates that age is a significant predictor of whether someone will become seriously sick or is more likely to die if they contract COVID-19,” said Governor Janet Mills. “Taking that into consideration, along with the clarity, predictability, and relative ease of implementation, I believe this approach is the best option to save lives and ensure the vaccine can be administered to as many people as quickly and as efficiently as possible. We are undertaking the largest mass vaccination effort in history, and I am grateful to Maine people for their understanding and patience as we make adjustments to reflect the latest science and get shots into arms as quickly as we can.”

“Efficiency, equity, and science continue to guide our vaccination strategy,” said Dr. Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “The research that has been published in recent months consistently and strongly shows that age matters when it comes to COVID-19 risk. As we work toward vaccinating all Mainers, from oldest to youngest, it remains critical that Maine people continue to wear face masks in public, stay at least 6 feet apart, and avoid non-essential gatherings with people who don’t live with them.”

“Simply vaccinating by age will increase our rate of shots in arms, helping us to win the race against the COVID-19 variant taking hold in Maine and look forward to a summer in Maine that, with masks and social distancing, can resemble normal,” said Jeanne Lambrew, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. “While eligibility is extending to those in their 60s, we continue to work with health care providers and community partners to help those within that population who are the oldest, who are otherwise at risk or disadvantaged, or who may struggle to get to a vaccination site or access online appointments.”

“Clinical studies show that age is the strongest predictor of hospitalization and death from COVID-19, and we support the governor’s decision to expand vaccination eligibility to those aged 60 and over,” said Joan Boomsma, chief medical officer of MaineHealth, the state’s largest integrated health system. “The incidence of serious illness and death increases with age, and prioritizing in this way is a straightforward and sound way to allocate vaccine to those most at risk.”

As part of the update to the vaccination strategy, Governor Mills also directed the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the Maine Department of Education to provide in the coming weeks vaccination opportunities dedicated to pre-K-12 school staff who are eligible for vaccination within the age categorizations. This planning is underway to ensure a streamlined opportunity for the education workforce, and school staff can expect to receive information from the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services on when and where these opportunities will be provided. The Governor hopes that by providing dedicated opportunities for vaccination for teachers within their age categorizations, Maine can further protect school staff and provide more consistency for schools in terms of staffing moving forward. In the meantime, the Mills Administration has purchased 250,000 BinaxNOW rapid antigen tests that it has prioritized for schools, and child care providers, to expand regular testing and support in-person learning.

All eligible Maine residents are required to make an appointment in advance of receiving the vaccine. Because it takes time to implement changes in eligibility, newly eligible people should hold on calling for appointments until next week. For information on Maine’s COVID-19 vaccination strategy, visit: maine.gov/covid19/vaccines, which includes a list of vaccination sites across Maine with information on scheduling options.

Although vaccinations have begun, COVID-19 remains a serious public health crisis and Maine people should continue to heed all health and safety protocols, including wearing masks, staying home if you feel sick, practicing physical distancing, washing hands often, and avoiding gatherings.

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