Director of Pharmacy Lisa Caswell, left, hands the hospital’s first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to pharmacist Lauren Button on Dec. 23 at Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan. The state has announced that ages 16 and older will be eligible to receive the vaccine beginning next week. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file Buy this Photo

As Mainers 16 and older become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine next week, pharmacies around central Maine are scheduling appointments for inoculations, but some places are accepting registrations only from people 18 and over while others are making accommodations for 16 and 17-year-olds.

On Thursday, Gov. Janet Mills said in a media briefing that thanks to a significant increase in doses coming to the state, her administration is able to implement the state’s original immunization program faster. The state initially planned to open the vaccine to those 16 and older on April 19. The increase in doses opens eligibility to an additional 470,000 Mainers next week.

News of the increased vaccine supply comes as the state reports 401 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. This number marks the first time that the number of new cases exceeded 400 in one day since Feb. 2. Cases state- and countrywide are on the rise.

At Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan, the director of pharmacy said that the hospital is now accepting registrations for people over the age of 18.

“We don’t have the Pfizer vaccine so we can’t do the 16- and 17-year-olds,” Lisa Caswell said.

Redington-Fairview General Hospital will receive 1,100 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, split between the pharmacy and EMS department. Around 100 doses of Moderna are also expected but have been claimed already, Caswell said.

To register, people should go to rfgh.net. Those without computer access can call 858-2452 between the hours of 9 a.m. and noon Monday through Friday.

If registering online, Caswell said that individuals should check their junk folder for return email if it does not appear in their inboxes.

“People need to keep an eye on their junk mail folder,” Caswell said. “We’re finding a lot of people aren’t seeing the emails that we send them to schedule because it’s getting caught in their spam filter.”

Distribution of the Moderna vaccine at Redington-Fairview General Hospital began on Dec. 23, when pharmacists, nurses and staff from the medical offices were able to receive the hospital’s first doses under phase 1A. The hospital’s first shipment in the first phase included 500 doses, which was also offered to other health care professionals in the community, including dentists and mental health workers.

The Skowhegan hospital is working through the waitlist of those who want to get a vaccine and is also looking to adding sites where they offer vaccination. Currently, inoculations are scheduled at an off-site location at 98 North Ave.

“Our EMS department is going up to Bingham to do a small clinic up there, and we’re looking into the possibility of doing that in other places in Somerset County,” Caswell said.

According to April 1 data on the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, 20,964 doses of vaccine have been administered in Somerset County; 12,257 of those are first doses and 8,707 are second/final doses. Countywide, 24.28% of the population have received their first dose and 17.25% are fully vaccinated.

In Kennebec County, 58,029 doses of vaccine have been administered as of April 1; 37,175 of those are first doses and 20,854 are second/final doses. Countywide, 30.4% of the population have received their first dose of vaccine and 17.05% are fully vaccinated.

Through the retail pharmacy program, Dr. Nirav Shah of Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention said on Thursday that 20,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are scheduled to arrive the week of April 5. If the numbers of Pfizer and Moderna doses hold steady, Maine’s allocation in the pharmacy program could be about 40,000 doses next week.

At Hannaford, all but two pharmacies — Newport and Bar Harbor — will be sharing 5,600 doses of the J&J Vaccine, according to Ericka Dodge, external communications manager for the company.

“We follow eligibility guidelines as directed by the state’s CDC – and will open up appointments accordingly,” Dodge said in an email on Friday. “However, the scheduler will only offer available appointments. So if there is no availability that day, it will not show that day as an option to schedule.”

The pharmacy at Hannaford will not open for appointments until the vaccine is in hand and received by the department of each store, Dodge added. The most up-to-date information on vaccines at Hannaford pharmacies can be found at hannaford.com/covid19vaccine.

Central Maine locations include the Elm Plaza and JFK Plaza stores in Waterville, Skowhegan, Winthrop, Cony/Augusta and Farmington Hannafords.

Further information about when they will start vaccinating people age 16 and older was not available Friday afternoon, but only people currently eligible for the shots can schedule appointments.

Shaw’s in Augusta is giving vaccinations in accordance with state guidelines currently, and will be offering shots to people age 16 and older next week. Those who are not currently eligible, however, will have to wait until next Wednesday to sign up for a vaccine. They can do so by visiting the Shaw’s website at https://local.pharmacy.shaws.com/me/augusta/150-western-ave.html.

At Northern Light Health, with locations at Inland Hospital in Waterville and Sebasticook Valley Hospital in Pittsfield, community members 18 years and older can schedule appointments through their website. Because of guardian consent requirements, those 16 and 17 are unable to schedule appointments online, but a spokesperson said that they are working on a process for this age group.

“We anticipate that demand will be high and vaccine supply will be the limiting factor,” said Dr. James Jarvis, senior physician executive, system incident command at Northern Light Health.

Those looking to schedule an appointment at one of Northern Light Health’s vaccination sites can visit northernlighthealth.org. Those who need assistance or have limited internet access can call 204-8551.

Joy McKenna, spokesperson for MaineGeneral Health, said the health system updated its website, www.mainegeneral.org/about-us/mainegenerals-covid-19-response/, and toll-free phone line, 866-968-8219, Thursday afternoon following the announcement of increased eligibility. She said the system is now taking preregistrations for people age 18 and older, because of the type of vaccine it can administer.

“We are limited right now to preregistering those 18 and older because we only have Moderna vaccine coming in,” McKenna said. “Pfizer is the only vaccine that is approved by Emergency Use Authorization for those ages 16 and 17.”

She said there was a large increase in preregistrations following the announcement, just as there has been each time the eligibility has expanded. How many doses will be given is entirely dependent on how many the health system receives.

“Depending on the amount of vaccine we receive, we are able to provide 1,000 doses of vaccine a day, six days a week at the community vaccination clinic at the Augusta Civic Center,” McKenna said.

As for priority for scheduling appointments, she said, it’s first come, first served.

“As it says on our website, our practice is to call back individuals who preregister based on the order in which the preregistrations have come in,” McKenna said.

When it comes to which vaccine to get, Caswell, of Redington-Fairview General Hospital, said that the best option for individuals is to receive whatever is offered to them.

“We have a fair number of people who are wanting one type of vaccine over another. I would encourage people to get the vaccine that’s offered to them,” Caswell said. “It makes a lot of sense to want the Johnson & Johnson vaccine if you travel a lot and you don’t know that you’ll be back for the second dose kind of thing. That makes perfect sense to me.”

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