AUGUSTA — Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said Thursday that the Department of Health and Human Services has been assured by MaineGeneral Health that selective vaccination clinics that include donors will not continue.

During a Thursday news briefing, Lambrew said the Health and Human Services Department has raised concerns to the hospital since the publication of the report Sunday.

“I’ve been in communication with the leadership at MaineGeneral about the fact that it is not consistent with the state’s approach to vaccination to selectively vaccinate people,” Lambrew said. “We made it perfectly clear that it is contrary to our policy and got assurances that would not be the practice going forward.”

MaineGeneral officials Wednesday told the Kennebec Journal they did not intend to offer “privileged access” to the vaccine after reports that it offered an early run of its vaccine clinics to some donors.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention, said at a Tuesday briefing he had “not had independent conversations with anyone at MaineGeneral, so I don’t have primary knowledge of the facts at hand,” but said “these perceptions of trust and favoritism raises concern.” At Thursday’s news briefing, Shah clarified that the Maine CDC did have concerns about an equitable vaccine process, and the department communicated those concerns to MaineGeneral prior to the publication of a Bangor Daily News report on Sunday.

On the state’s COVID-19 webpage, it says the state “is committed to an accessible, flexible and equitable vaccination effort.”


Several senior citizens have contacted the Kennebec Journal in recent days to say they couldn’t make an appointment using MaineGeneral’s vaccine hotline, with some saying they called more than 100 times or were put on hold for hours.

MaineGeneral spokeswoman Joy McKenna said in an interview with the Kennebec Journal that the 40 people were part of a “‘Day in the Life’ test of the process” and received vaccinations, and 12 of the 40 were donors to the hospital system. McKenna said no members of the hospital’s board of directors were involved in the vaccination clinic and that the “Day in the Life” process has been conducted through all of the hospital’s major projects.

Jim LaLiberty, chairman of MaineGeneral Health’s board of directors, defended the vaccination clinic by saying it achieved its goals, uncovering some issues and allowing future clinics to be conducted more efficiently. He said being a donor to the hospital was “not a criteria” to be included in the pilot program, and that people were selected based on their ability to “provide useful feedback.”

“That donors were included is a reflection of the large number of donors and supporters we have and is coincidental, nothing more.”

While many of the board members were not available or declined to comment Wednesday, Barbara Mayer said she spoke with hospital CEO Chuck Hays about the vaccine and he asked her if she was interested in receiving it.

“My husband is quite elderly,” the 75-year-old Mayer said. “I did have a conversation (with Hays) that (he) did ask if I was interested because of my husband’s age. (I don’t know) whether or not that was due to our age and situation or due to my membership on the board.”

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