James Cappelletti receives a vaccination against COVID-19 at a MaineHealth clinic in Westbrook on Monday morning. Photo courtesy MaineHealth

Maine’s major health care systems are opening up clinics and launching hotline numbers for those 70 and older to make immunization appointments even though the state’s supply of COVID-19 vaccines remains limited.

In Westbrook, MaineHealth has opened a clinic that starting this week will immunize about 1,800 patients 70 and older. The clinic had opened in limited fashion last week.

“We are prepared to serve many more people once supply is able to keep pace with demand. In the meantime, we appreciate the patience of our community,” said Dr. Joel Botler, president of MaineHealth’s Maine Medical Partners and chief medical officer at Maine Medical Center. MaineHealth’s network includes Maine Medical Center in Portland and a large number of other health care providers.

Maine is receiving about 18,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine a week from the federal government, and it’s unclear when production and distribution will improve. There are 193,000 people in the state’s 70-and-older population, which Maine began immunizing last week.

Through Monday, Maine had given 110,332 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, including 87,292 first doses and 23,040 second doses. That represents about 62 percent of all doses shipped to Maine, based on the most recent U.S. CDC data.

Northern Light Health, the parent company of Mercy Hospital in Portland and Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor among other medical facilities, announced a new hotline – 207-204-8551 – on Monday that those 70 and older can call for vaccine appointments. To schedule an appointment online, go to www.northernlighthealth.org.

MaineHealth says those 70 and older can call 877-780-7545 to set up an appointment for a vaccination. For more information on all health care providers where a patient can make an appointment, go to www.maine.gov/covid19/vaccines/vaccination-sites.

For now, health care providers are acknowledging that it may be difficult to make an appointment because of the limited supply of vaccine.

The lack of supply is crimping the vaccine rollout across the country, but Maine is doing better than the national average, according to the Bloomberg News vaccine tracker. Maine has administered 8.13 doses per 100 people, 10th best in the nation. The national average is 6.8 per 100 people. The top states for getting vaccine doses into arms are Alaska at 12.88 per 100 people and West Virginia at 11.47 doses per 100 people.

Also on Monday, Maine reported 259 new cases of COVID-19, and three additional deaths.

The 259 new cases follows 189 cases reported on Sunday and 324 on Saturday. Daily cases have not spiked to more than 800 in one day since Jan. 15.

The seven-day daily average of new cases has plummeted from 562.3 a week ago to 452.8 on Monday. A month ago, the seven-day average was 458.6. The peak – so far – was 624 on Jan. 15.

Overall, there have been 37,046 cases of COVID-19 in Maine, and 547 deaths. Currently, 193 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Maine hospitals, with 59 in critical care.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said some numbers are trending better, as case counts have improved while testing remains robust. But hospitalizations are still too high, he said.

“Too early to say whether this is a blip, or whether the positive trends will continue,” Shah said.

Dr. Dora Anne Mills, chief health improvement officer at MaineHealth, said in a Facebook post Monday morning that “there is very little vaccine in Maine or anywhere, compared with the numbers of those who need it.”

“Vaccine is our ticket to more normalcy (likely a “new normal”). It is our ticket to eventually celebrating holidays together, hugging our loved ones, and our children returning to school full time,” Mills said. “In the meantime, vaccine provides us an additional and critical layer of safety, to be added to other safety layers, like masking, distancing, hand hygiene, not gathering and ventilation.”

On Sunday, Maine Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican, and Angus King, an independent, participated in a call between a group of moderate senators and a White House official to discuss the Biden administration’s proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, which includes many measures, such as vaccine distribution funding and $1,400 checks to families.

Collins said in a statement on Sunday that she believes the scope of the package should be narrowed.

“While I support prompt additional funding for vaccine production, distribution, and vaccinators, and for testing, it seems premature to be considering a package of this size and scope,” Collins said in a statement.

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