COVID-19 vaccinations will be given starting March 17 at Center Court at the Auburn Mall. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — A COVID-19 mass vaccination site — the first in Androscoggin County — will open at the Auburn Mall on March 17, much to the relief of Martha Littlefield and many, many residents.

Central Maine Healthcare, the state, as well as the cities of Lewiston and Auburn are launching a high-volume vaccination site that plans to provide shots for up to 1,400 people a day once it ramps up.

That is, providing the supply is there, said Dr. Jason Krupp, president of Central Maine Medical Group at CMHC.

Dr. Jason Krupp

The site will be in the mall’s center court, and be open three to five times a week for six months.

The just-approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine, already arriving in Maine, will significantly help boost supply, Dr. Nirav Shah, head of Maine’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said Tuesday during a news briefing.

“Wonderful news!” said Martha Littlefield, 67, of Poland, who’s been trying to snag an appointment. “I check the CMHC site 10 times a day,” she said. As of Tuesday there were no online appointments or pre-registration available. “I want to know I have a place in line,” she said.

Before Tuesday’s announcement it was frustrating, Littlefield said,  to hear of mass vaccination sites popping up all over — Portland, South Portland, Sanford, Bangor and Augusta — but not in Lewiston-Auburn, the second largest population base in Maine, and none in Androscoggin, Franklin or Oxford counties.

“Why?” she asked, is it taking so long for the state, CMMC and St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, both in Lewiston, to open a large-scale clinic.

“It’s really designation,” said Krupp, explaining that it has taken time to coordinate the right site, working with community partners.

“And you’ve got to remember we can only give the vaccines we get,” he noted.

During the past two months the hospital has given shots to more than 10,000 people, Krupp said, adding it’s been a smooth process. “On Saturday alone we gave 1,000 shots. . . . Our team has put something (together) that is fantastic, that we can translate to even bigger. It will be a good setup.”

CMMC doesn’t do preregistrations because, Krupp said, “people who preregister tend to do it at a lot of places.” When that happens and people cancel, “that can limit the amount we’re supposed to give, it can limit our effectiveness in giving doses.”

But, as the March 17 opening date draws closer, “there will be opportunity online to schedule,” he said. “The down and dirty is we find out on Monday how much vaccine we’re going to get for the week. We can’t schedule if we’re not sure how much we’re going to get.”

Speaking about the Auburn Mall site, Krupp said the pandemic has brought people together, including mall owner George Schott, planners and doctors from CMMC and St. Mary’s, the cities and the state — people who know success happens “when we can work together as a team for the patients. It’s good stuff.”

Once the Auburn Mall site opens, CMMC will need 5o to 60 staffers and volunteers.

In addition to the large-volume site at the Auburn Mall, vaccinations will be offered at 35 Hannaford supermarkets, including some in Oxford County, Maine’s Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said Tuesday.

St. Mary’s spokesman Steve Costello said the hospital has been active in helping plan the Auburn Mall center. “We’re very pleased Lewiston-Auburn will finally have a mass vaccination site.”

CMHC President Jeffrey L. Brickman said the Auburn Mall location happened through people working as partners. “This high-volume vaccination site will have a powerful impact in the fight against the pandemic. It’s a wonderful example of the community coming together to protect the people we are privileged to serve,” Brickman said in a news release.

Lewiston Mayor Mark Cayer said the community “is one step closer to a return of normalcy.

Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque observed that Androscoggin County’s vaccination rate “is lagging behind the rest of the state, so we are extremely pleased” to make the site a reality.” The mall’s central location will make getting vaccinated “quick, simple and safe,” he said in a prepared statement.

While people wait for their appointment, Krupp gave some advice.

Take any of the three vaccines you can get. Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are all excellent, he said.

“Be patient, be vigilant” and show up on time. “When you get there, wear a mask, socially distance.”

The waiting has been frustrating, Krupp said. But “we’ll get people their shots.”

The Auburn Mall is outlined at the top of the map.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.