BATH — Bath Iron Works, one of the state’s largest employers, wants COVID-19 vaccines available for its over 6,000 employees, but won’t mandate vaccinations. Meanwhile, some employees said they were hesitant about it.

According to the company’s website, “BIW is partnering with our local health systems to make the two-part vaccine available to each of us as soon as possible.”

The company argued its workers should be included with the over 200,000 Mainers in the 1B and 1C vaccination groups, as outlined by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC’s 1B vaccination group includes people 70 and older, frontline workers and first responders like police officers, grocery store employees, teachers and public transportation workers. People in the 1B group are expected to receive their vaccine in February through April, according to the Maine CDC.

The 1C vaccination group includes people ages 65 to 74 and other essential workers in food service, shelter housing and public health. The 1C group is expected to be vaccinated in May through June.

BIW’s shipbuilders are considered essential workers by the Department of Homeland Security because they make ships for the Navy, BIW Spokesman David Hench wrote in a previous statement.

BIW, a subsidiary of General Dynamics, says employees will not be required to get the vaccine, but “are strongly encouraged to take the vaccine to protect themselves, their families, their coworkers and our community, to help bring an end to this pandemic.”

Even if BIW is able to provide vaccines for their employees, some employees have said they’re not ready to roll up their sleeves.

Ben Suitter and Isaac Pellerin, both shipfitters at BIW, said they’d hesitate to get the vaccine because they think more testing needs to be done to know whether it’s safe.

“I think a vaccine is good and we need herd immunity, but I’m hesitant because it came out so quickly without much testing,” said Pellerin. “And it’s not 100% effective, so even if you do get it, you could still get COVID-19.”

Willard Beckwith, a sandblaster of nine years, said he doesn’t think he needs the vaccine because “I don’t get sick very often so I’m not worried about COVID-19.”

BIW employee Jenn Orr said she wasn’t willing to get the vaccine but then tested positive for COVID-19 and her perspective changed.

“I was around older friends and relatives,” Orr wrote in an email. “One of my very dearest friend’s husband was in the hospital getting a quadruple bypass. Because she couldn’t be there I spent the morning with her so she wouldn’t be alone worrying. I kept a mask on the whole time I was there but if I had given it to her and she passed it to him it could have taken his life. I do not want to be the reason someone dies. I would never forgive myself.”

John Decoteau, an electrician of six years, said he’d get the COVID-19 vaccine “because I want to protect the people around me.”

Rather than vaccinate employees at the shipyard, BIW said it will offer transportation to local health providers for vaccinations during their normal work schedule, the company stated.

According to the company’s website, face masks and social distancing will continue to be mandatory in the shipyard, regardless of whether a worker receives the vaccine to mitigate the risk of transmitting COVID-19, which has continued to spread through the company since November.

The company has reported 113 COVID-19 cases so far this month. Since March 2020, 218 BIW employees have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Tuesday, 132 of which were in the main shipyard in Bath, where the majority of the company’s employees work.

As of Monday, Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick had administered 4,795 total doses of vaccine which includes first and second doses, according to Judith Kelsh, hospital spokeswoman.

“We have the capacity to administer 800 doses daily, six days per week and that is our goal limited only by vaccine supply,” Kelsh told The Times Record in an email Tuesday.

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, the Portland Press Herald reported. There are 193,000 people in the state’s 70-and-older population, which Maine began immunizing last week.

According to the Maine CDC, 115,213 vaccinations — 62% of the state’s supply — have been administered across the state as of Tuesday. Of those, 89,654 were first doses and 25,559 were second doses.

Within Sagadahoc County, 729 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and one has died since March, according to the Maine CDC.

Statewide, 37,708 Mainers have tested positive for COVID-19 and 558 have died as of Tuesday, the Maine CDC reported.


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