Maine’s vaccination campaign against COVID-19 is continuing to expand, although not as fast as either public health officials or the public would like. The number of vaccine doses arriving in Maine and being injected into arms is growing steadily, however.

Here are answers to some of the many questions about the state vaccination program. Have others? Email them to [email protected].

How can I get vaccinated?

With vaccine supplies still extremely limited nationwide, Maine is currently focusing on residents 70 and older, but on March 3, that focus will shift to residents 60 and older. The number of COVID-19 vaccination clinics in Maine is growing steadily, although demand still outstrips vaccine supplies so even eligible people will likely have to wait. And that wait could be anywhere from a few days to many weeks, depending on the clinic operator.

Looking ahead, Maine expects to make vaccines available to those 50 and older in April, to those in their 40s in May and to those in their 30s in June. Individuals under 30, including children if a vaccine is authorized for them, will be targeted in July and beyond.

Maine currently has no centralized, statewide vaccination registration and appointment system, although one is in the works. As a result, there is a confusing hodgepodge of systems operated by different health care providers.

An up-to-date list of health care centers offering COVID vaccines can be found at the Maine Office of the Governor’s website.

With more than 50 clinic locations statewide and that number growing, it’s not possible to list them all here. But below are some of the larger hospital or health care networks that are making appointments for eligible individuals (again, those age 70-plus) regardless of whether they are a patient in the network.

MaineHealth – registration for eligible individuals (and preregistration for those not yet eligible) at 877-780-7545. Callers will be put on a waitlist and contacted when appointments are available.

Northern Light Health – registration online at covid.northernlighthealth.org or by calling 207-204-8551.

Central Maine Medical Center – appointments on a first-come, first-served basis for eligible individuals by calling 207-520-2917.

MaineGeneral Health in Augusta: preregistration available for eligible individuals online or by calling 866-968-8219. For hearing impaired individuals, call 711 or 800-437-1220

York Hospital: Registration for eligible individuals online or by calling 207-752-8685.

Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies: appointment can be scheduled online only for eligible individuals at pharmacies. All 22 Walmart locations in Maine and the two Sam’s Club locations are offering vaccine appointments to on a first-come, first-served basis.

Some medium-sized health care networks, such as InterMed and Martin’s Point Health Care, as well as community health centers are offering vaccines to their patients only.

Vaccinations also are being offered to the eligible public by hospitals in more rural areas of Maine, including in: Bridgton, Calais, Caribou, Machias, Houlton, Millinocket, Bar Harbor, Madawaska, Lincoln, Skowhegan and Rumford. For registration or contact information on those sites, go to the state CDC’s COVID site for locations.

When will a statewide, centralized registration website or call center be available?

That’s unclear.

State health officials said in late-January that a statewide system was still weeks away. Asked about the timeline on Tuesday, Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said “we are still a ways away from  having it online.”

Shah said that, in addition to contractual and administrative details, the Maine CDC also is trying to make sure that health care providers can interact with the system, both to input information about upcoming clinics and to reach individuals who registered for appointments.

I’m between 65 and 69. When will I be eligible to get my first vaccine shot?

Gov. Janet Mills said at the beginning of February that the state hoped to expand eligibility to those 65 to 69 during first week of March. Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services wasn’t willing to put a specific date on that expansion when asked about it on Tuesday, saying only that she hoped it would happen “in the coming weeks.”

As of Tuesday, nearly 83,000 of the estimated 193,000 Maine residents 70 or older – or 43 percent of that population segment — had received at least one dose of vaccine. DHHS officials expect to there to be some overlap in the two phases, however.

What about the other groups included in Phase 1B – all adults with high-risk medical conditions and so-called “essential front-line” workers?

At this point, it appears that adults with medical conditions that put them at higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19 will become eligible after 65- to 69-year-olds, although exactly when remains up in the air. The Maine CDC’s website still lists Phase 1B as extending from February through April.

It’s also still unclear which essential front-line workers will be first up for vaccination when that tier of Phase 1B begins. The federal definition of that group includes teachers, daycare workers, grocery store employees, postal workers, public transit employees and people involved with agricultural/food production. But states have broad discretion to prioritize vaccinations, and Maine officials said they have not yet made those eligibility decisions because they are still focused on administering shots to the 70-plus crowd.

What is the latest anticipated timeline for vaccinations in Maine?

The phases listed below can (and will) change, depending on dose deliveries from the federal government and how efficiently the state’s vaccination campaign is operating. But here are the latest estimates:

• Phase 1A (medical professionals, public safety workers, COVID-19 response personnel, long-term care homes): started in December and is mostly complete.
• Phase 1B (Mainers 70 and older, followed by adults with high-risk medical conditions, 65- to 69-year-olds and some essential workers): vaccinations of those age 70 or older started in late-January. Mainers age 65 to 69 could become eligible in early March, with the remainder of folks in the classification receiving shots by the end of April.
• Phase 1C (other critical workers not included in Phase 1B): May and June.
• Phase 2 (everyone else age 16 and older): June and into summer.

Can I get vaccinated by my primary care physician or at a local, independent doctor’s office?

Probably not yet, despite repeated requests from smaller practices.

The Maine CDC is currently sending most vaccine doses to larger networks (such as those operated by Northern Light Health or MaineHealth) as well as hospitals because they are viewed as having the capacity to quickly inoculate larger numbers of people. State officials say they eventually hope to allocate doses to these smaller private practices, but it’s not happening yet.

Some independent physicians are putting together proposals to partner with other offices in their area to jointly offer vaccination clinics to larger numbers of individuals. But as of this week, none of those appear to have been approved by the state or allocated any vaccine doses.

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