Augusta firefighter/paramedic Tim Pomelow administers a shot to Susan Feather during a March 20 COVID-19 vaccination event hosted by Augusta Fire & Rescue at Cony Middle and High School in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file Buy this Photo

AUGUSTA — The Augusta Fire Department has canceled its COVID-19 vaccination clinic next week citing a lack of vaccine supply.

The fire department asked for 800 doses of the coronavirus vaccine in the past two weeks to try and keep up with its waiting list of at least 2,500 people, but instead has only received 100 doses each week.

According to Steve Leach, deputy chief of the Augusta Fire Department, next week’s vaccine supply will be given to mobile units with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, even though the fire department asked for 1,000 doses of the vaccine for this coming week.

“We were given the explanation that they were trying to target the ‘difficult to get to’ parts of the state,” Leach said.

The mobile unit with FEMA is likely to set up at the Oxford Casino, he said, and possibly somewhere in Waterville within the few days after.

Leach said appointments are made as soon as the department knows how many vaccines it will have in the coming week, so no appointments had to be canceled for the lack of supply. The department has received both the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine — Leach thinks the statewide decline of 18,100 doses of Johnson & Johnson may be the driving factor behind the clinic’s shortage.

The Augusta Fire Department was using a community outreach approach to giving out the vaccine. The department has reached out to the Kennebec Behavioral Health Clinic, along with the Capital Clubhouse and National Alliance on Mental Illness to help vaccinate clients in past weeks, and used ambulance services to get the vaccine to different areas.

Leach said the fire department had just started working with the homeless population through the local shelters. He added there is still a large elderly population that needs the vaccine, likely due to computer incompetency.

“The big concern the ambulance service is saying, ‘What is the benefit of having one mobile trailer when you can have 18 different sites through the state doing more than that per day,'” Leach said.

He suggests people on the fire department’s waiting list seek the vaccine elsewhere, if they can, and not wait until the department gets its supply back.

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