Maine’s major medical networks are planning to set up large-scale, standalone vaccination clinics to help inoculate the wider public against COVID-19 as more vaccine becomes available and more people become eligible.

Mid Coast-Parkview Health, which includes Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick, announced plans Friday to establish a regional vaccination clinic that would be able to administer more than 800 vaccine doses daily and be accessible to all eligible patients and community members.

Similar planning efforts are underway across the state, including at Portland-based MaineHealth, InterMed and Martin’s Point Health Care; Central Maine Healthcare and St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston; MaineGeneral Health in Augusta and Brewer-based Northern Light Health.

Large-scale vaccination clinics are already happening in California, Texas, North Carolina and Florida, with mixed results, and Maine officials hope to avoid the long lines, registration snafus and staffing problems that have plagued some of them.

Mid Coast-Parkview Health is working on the final logistics of setting up its vaccination clinic and will communicate more information to patients before its anticipated opening on Jan. 25, Dr. Christopher Bowe, chief medical officer, said in an email to patients. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has focused the initial phase of the state’s vaccination program on health care workers and long-term care patients and residents, but it will soon open to other groups.

“We stand ready to offer vaccines to our patients,” Bowe said. “Our ability to schedule your appointment is dependent upon eligibility requirements determined by the Maine CDC as well as the availability of vaccines.”

Bowe said Mid Coast-Parkview is working on an outreach process for its patients and community members to allow vaccination scheduling. Over the next few weeks, eligible Mid Coast Medical Group patients with an email address on file will begin to receive invitations from the Mid Coast Vaccination Clinic with sign-up instructions and directions.

“This (will be) done in phases as we have appointments and vaccines available,” Bowe said. “Please be patient and know that we will reach out to you directly.”

Clinics are being planned in Maine because health officials here recognize that most medical facilities don’t have the extra space, staffing and other resources necessary to administer COVID-19 vaccines on a large scale under pandemic protocols.

MaineHealth, which includes Maine Medical Center in Portland, is working to set up vaccination clinics outside its medical practices across the system, which has already vaccinated 22,000 health care workers.

“These vaccines require special handling,” said MaineHealth spokesman John Porter. “There are important registration steps to take – medical history, tracking the lot number of the vaccine – and patients must be medically monitored for at least 15 minutes after vaccination, longer sometimes, depending on medical history.”

Staffing the clinics also promises to be a challenge, Porter said. Maine Med and Central Maine Medical Center have relied heavily on volunteers to register, inoculate and observe their employees during vaccination clinics.

Maine is still in Phase 1A of its vaccination program, prioritizing health care workers, long-term care residents and employees, public safety personnel and COVID-19 response workers, largely through hospitals.

Phase 1B, expected to start in February, would include people 70 and older, people with high-risk medical conditions and certain front-line essential workers. Other groups would follow as determined by the Maine CDC, with a goal of vaccinating 1.3 million Mainers by midsummer.

“The state has asked us to think about how we can administer vaccinations to our patients through the practices and to the community at large,” said Steve Costello, spokesman for St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center. “The answer depends on the number of vaccinations that we get on a weekly basis.”

Costello said it would be feasible to distribute as many as 500 vaccine doses a week through St. Mary’s various affiliated medical practices, which include about 35,000 patients.

“(But that) would be a very slow roll out,” Costello said. “If we are going to have a much larger number of vaccinations, that would require a more mass vaccination type of plan, which we have begun to discuss with Central Maine Medical Center, Androscoggin Home Healthcare & Hospice, the cities (of Lewiston and Auburn) and others.”

How soon large-scale clinics are up and running depends a great deal on vaccine supply, which has been unreliable and less than expected so far.

“While the supply of vaccine to date has been limited, we’re hopeful that Maine will soon receive larger allotments,” said John Lamb, spokesman for InterMed, which serves more than 100,000 patients at primary care and specialty practices in Portland, South Portland and Yarmouth.

InterMed is currently vaccinating its staff and patient-facing healthcare workers in the community, regardless of whether or not they are patients at InterMed, Lamb said. Vaccines are administered by appointment at a clinic set up in leased office space in South Portland that allows for physical distancing throughout the vaccination process.

“We are currently immunizing about 300 patients a day and working hard to increase that rapidly over the next several weeks,” Lamb said. “Our operations team is working on logistics that will enable us to offer the vaccine to a much larger number of our patients.”

InterMed has sent emails to its patients assuring them that they will be notified when they are eligible for vaccination under Maine CDC guidelines.

At MaineGeneral Health in Augusta, which serves about 180,000 patients, plans are underway for large-scale vaccination clinics at locations in the greater Kennebec Valley in addition to primary care practices. No reservation process has been established and patients will be notified when clinics are available.

“We recognize the importance of getting the vaccine out to the community as soon as possible and are doing all that we can to help in the effort,” said spokeswoman Joy McKenna. “We eagerly await additional supply of vaccine and will release our larger plan of community vaccination soon.”

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