Who has vaccines in Maine?

Two Maine hospitals received doses Monday morning, the first shipments to the state. Northern Light Mercy Hospital in Portland and Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor each received 975 doses.

Who is next?

Five other large hospitals are expecting deliveries Tuesday. Those range from 1,885 doses for Maine Medical Center in Portland to 215 doses for A.R. Gould Hospital in Presque Isle.

Who will get the vaccine injections and when?

The vaccines delivered to hospitals will be used to protect front-line health care workers who are most at risk of exposure. They include the people who work in intensive care units, emergency departments and COVID-19 units, and it ranges from doctors and nurses to housekeeping staff and dietitians.

Each hospital decides who goes first and when. Some hospitals around the country began giving injections almost right away on Monday. Northern Light Health said the vaccines its hospitals received Monday will be administered Wednesday after final preparations. Other Maine hospitals are expected to begin vaccinating staff Tuesday or Wednesday.

Will there be enough to vaccinate all front-line hospital workers?

No. This is just a start. Maine hospitals will receive a total of 5,580 doses this week, and Maine has an estimated 75,000 health care workers with direct patient contact. More doses are expected to arrive in the coming weeks.

Are health care workers required to get the vaccinations?

No, at least not yet. Hospitals are encouraging employees to get the vaccine, but are not requiring it.

It’s not clear if the vaccines can legally be mandated given the fact that they were approved through emergency use authorization, which does not require the same level of testing as a full approval.

In addition, because there is not enough of the vaccine for all front-line health care workers, hospitals are giving it to the workers who want it first.

What about Maine’s smaller hospitals?

They could receive vaccines as soon as next week.

The first vaccines arriving this week were developed by Pfizer and need to be stored in ultra-cold freezers, which the larger hospitals have in place or borrowed from universities and colleges.

A different vaccine developed by Moderna doesn’t need the special storage equipment and can be distributed more broadly. That vaccine could be ready for delivery next week, and would be shipped to 32 hospitals around the state.

Aren’t nursing homes supposed to get vaccines, too?

Yes. The first batch of Pfizer vaccines ordered by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention also included 6,825 doses for residents of long-term care facilities, including nursing homes.

So where are they?

The deliveries to nursing homes are not happening as quickly for a number of reasons. Like smaller hospitals, nursing homes don’t have ultra-cold freezers, for one thing. Rather than deliveries being trucked directly to nursing homes, those vaccines are being distributed by pharmacy chains that will set up vaccinations clinics in each facility.

In addition, nursing homes have to work with patients and their families to get written legal consent, a process they now are working through.

When will nursing home residents start getting the vaccine?

It could be next week before the first vaccines are administrated to nursing home residents, and the process could take weeks.

Will nursing homes allow visitors once residents get the shot?

Not necessarily. For one thing, it takes two injections 21 days apart to receive the full immunity boost of the Pfizer vaccine.

And some residents and staff are expected to decide against getting the vaccine, at least for now. That will mean facilities will have to maintain restrictions to prevent outbreaks.

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