As demand for vaccinations weakens, Maine is bringing the immunization effort to where people work and socialize by offering clinics at large employers, schools, social clubs and churches.

“We want to make vaccination the easy choice,” said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

In another move to bring shots to people, the mobile vaccination unit, a partnership between Maine and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is extending its operations in Maine by three weeks. The new stops will be in Pittsfield, Rumford, Rangeley, Limington and Kittery, finishing on July 2.

One of the stops will be at the Cianbro construction company in Pittsfield, and while the mobile unit is open to everyone, the proximity to a major workplace is by design, said Jeanne Lambrew, Maine’s health and human services commissioner.

“We are purposely trying to position that mobile unit near large employers,” she said.

Lambrew said the state also is planning to stand up vaccination clinics convenient to the hospitality industry, in locations close to where many hotel and restaurant employees work.

“We could hold clinics at shift changes, maybe 3 to 5 in the afternoon or maybe 9 to 10:30 at night, in an effort to get people as they are coming and going from work,” Lambrew said. “We are trying to get to that remaining population who may not be the ones first in line to get a vaccine dose, but may want it, and may need that convenient access proximate to their work site.”

With 12- to 15-year-olds now eligible to get their shots – federal regulators gave the green light to immunize adolescents this week – Shah said school-based clinics are going to be a major effort between now and the end of the school year in mid-June. School districts and health care providers will need to get the clinics operating by next week to have enough time to give students two shots of the Pfizer dose three weeks apart. Pfizer is the only vaccine approved for ages 12-17.

“If health care providers are approached by schools to host a clinic, (we are telling them to) please proceed and we will work with them to get them vaccine,” Shah said.

Major health care systems like MaineHealth, Northern Light Health and Central Maine Healthcare all have begun immunizing adolescents or scheduling their appointments.

Shah said the state will find a way to provide doses and get clinics running in any place where people gather, such as at churches and social clubs.

The shift in strategy is part of a broader effort to make immunization convenient, as the state is now flush with supplies and demand has fallen off. Large-scale vaccination clinics, such as at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor and Scarborough Downs, are winding down operations, and vaccinations will be done on a smaller-scale, such as in doctors’ offices and workplace clinics.

In another tactic to boost demand, the Mills administration announced Tuesday a number of incentives, such as free Sea Dogs tickets, L.L. Bean gift cards, free fishing licenses and other items if people get vaccinated.

Meanwhile, Maine reported 302 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and one additional death. Since the pandemic began, Maine has recorded 64,748 cases of COVID-19 and 798 deaths.

The seven-day average of daily new cases stood at 270.0 on Wednesday, compared to 316.7 a week ago, and about 450 daily cases in mid-April. During the peak of the pandemic in mid-January, case counts soared above 600.

After being a hotspot for new infections in mid-April through early May, Androscoggin County has seen its seven-day average of daily new cases plummet from the recent peak of 65.7 on May 8 to 45.9 on Wednesday. In Cumberland County, the state’s most populous, seven-day average case counts have declined from 55.3 a week ago to 40 on Wednesday.

Maine is tops in the country for the percentage of its population that is fully vaccinated, according to the Bloomberg vaccine tracker, and the top five states are all New England states. Following Maine are Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Other vaccine databases, which use different population and vaccination categories, report slightly different rankings, but all show that Maine and the other New England states are among the best at getting people vaccinated.

Through Wednesday, 658,758 people, or 49 percent of Maine’s 1.3 million population, have received at least the first dose of the vaccine. Also, 602,527 people have received their final dose, representing 44.9 percent of the population.

Currently, 122 people in Maine are hospitalized with COVID-19, including 47 in critical care.

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