Librarian Roberta Jordan organizes bookshelves in Bath’s Patten Free Library. Patrons were allowed into the library on Monday for the first time since last fall. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

Maine tops the nation for the rate at which it is getting residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Bloomberg News vaccine tracker, which draws on data from state and federal governments, showed Friday that 31.5 percent of Maine’s 1.3 million residents are fully vaccinated with both doses of Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The U.S. average is 24.3 percent fully vaccinated, while Georgia is the state vaccinating its people the slowest, with 17.9 percent getting their final doses.

But the vaccinations aren’t yet driving Maine’s daily case numbers down. The state reported 572 cases of COVID-19 and five additional deaths on Friday, the fourth day in a row new cases topped 500.

The state is racing to vaccinate its population to try to suppress cases before the surge reaches new heights.

Maine also is second-quickest in the country for people receiving at least the first dose, second only to New Hampshire.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday that high demand among Mainers for vaccinations and state efficiencies at moving doses around to match supply with demand are two reasons why Maine has been able to vaccinate its population rapidly.

“I’m really proud of that,” Shah said at a media briefing near the Portland Expo, where he toured a vaccination site. “At a time when other states across the country, from Alaska to Mississippi, are running into walls of (vaccine) hesitancy, we’re not seeing that in Maine right now. We are seeing urgency.”

Shah said the Portland Expo mass vaccination site operated by Northern Light Health and other mass vaccination clinics are a key component of getting Mainers immunized. Other mass vaccination clinics include at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, Scarborough Downs, the Auburn Mall and the former Marshalls in Sanford.

“Large-scale mass vaccination sites of this nature are our way out of the pandemic,” Shah said. “Vaccinating is our focus right now, because that will ultimately help us tamp down the pandemic.”

Through Thursday, 551,235 people, or 41 percent of Maine’s 1.3 million residents, had received their first dose, while 412,862, or 30.7 percent, had received a final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to CDC statistics. The Bloomberg News Tracker calculates the first dose total differently than the Maine CDC, putting the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine into first dose statistics, rather than the final dose, which is where the Maine CDC puts the J&J vaccine statistics.

Vaccine supplies for the state vaccination program will decrease slightly next week, to 36,460 doses, a decline of 230 doses. That’s largely because federal regulators paused use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine while investigators look into a possible connection between blood clots and the J&J vaccine. The clots were extremely rare, a few cases out of nearly 7 million shots given.

The total number of doses will likely be about 50,000 next week, through shipments sent to the federal retail pharmacy program and to community health clinics. Those dose numbers will be unveiled over the weekend.

 

Meanwhile, case counts keep increasing.

The seven-day average of daily new cases stands at 446.6, compared to 326.4 a week ago and 199.9 a month ago.

Hospitalizations decreased slightly but remained at a level not seen since mid-February, dropping from 107 on Thursday to 104 on Friday, when 36 people were in intensive care.

Of the new cases reported Friday, people under 30 accounted for 41 percent, and those in their 30s and 40s made up 33 percent. Thirteen percent of the cases occurred in Mainers over age 60.

Since the pandemic began, Maine has recorded 56,525 cases of COVID-19 and 763 deaths.

Shah said that new variants, which are more transmissible and produce more severe cases, are a likely factor in Maine’s rising case numbers, although the vaccines work well against the variants.

As of Thursday, Maine reported 30 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant originally detected in the United Kingdom, three cases of the South African variant B.1.351 and one case of P1, the Brazilian variant. The actual number of variants circulating is much higher than what is reported because states only perform the genomic sequencing required to identify the variants on a small percentage of positive tests.

The surge in cases also could be related to travel, people not following pandemic safety rules, weather patterns and other reasons, Shah said.

 

 

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.