MaineGeneral Health in Augusta is scheduled to receive its first shipment of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, with plans to start distributing it Wednesday.

“We anticipate receiving the COVID-19 vaccine from the State on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, and we are in the planning stages to start distributing the vaccination as early as Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020,” MaineGeneral spokeswoman Joy McKenna said Monday in an email response to a request for comment.

McKenna said officials would not be able to confirm the number of doses the hospital will receive until the vaccine actually arrives Tuesday.

Northern Light Inland Hospital in Waterville is scheduled to receive the Moderna vaccine in the future, though the shipment date is unknown because that vaccine has not yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Rick Barry, a registered nurse and vice president of nursing and patient care services at Inland, said Monday in a statement that because the hospital does not have the ultra-low temperature freezers required for the Pfizer vaccine, it is awaiting FDA approval of the Moderna vaccine.

“We expect it to be approved this month and have the vaccine delivered shortly thereafter,” Barry said. “A specific date is not available yet since the vaccine is awaiting approval. The Pfizer vaccines arrived this morning at both Northern Light Mercy Hospital and Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center. Northern Light AR Gould Hospital is expecting their shipment either later today or tomorrow. All of these Northern Light hospitals have the required storage freezers for the Pfizer vaccine.”

Barry said that in the first phase of the Moderna vaccine distribution, Inland expects to receive 100 to 200 doses.

“We will start vaccinating staff working closely with COVID-19 patients first and expand to additional staff as more vaccine becomes available,” he said. “Examples include physicians, nurses and techs working in the emergency department, inpatient care areas, and COVID-19 screening locations. The vaccine is voluntary for all staff.”

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention, on Monday, reported 426 new cases of COVID-19 and two deaths in Maine, as the number of deaths in the U.S. increased to beyond 300,000. Shah said 198 people were hospitalized in Maine, 56 were in intensive care units and 17 were on ventilators.

He noted that while arrival of the vaccine represents a light at the end of the tunnel, we are still in that tunnel and people must not let their guards down.

The Maine CDC website reported 16,349 COVID-19 cases statewide as of Monday, with 14,339 confirmed, 2,010 probable cases, 259 deaths, 893 hospitalizations and 10,348 recoveries.

By Monday, the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus research center had tabulated more than 16.4 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and more than 300 thousand people had died from the disease.

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