Dr. Daniel Onion injects Kaylee Rocque of Sidney with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine June 13 at the Mount Vernon Community Center. Augusta firefighters James Baldwin, left, and Lt. John Robertson provide shots for other scheduled appointments and walk-ins as Mount Vernon Rescue volunteer Leslie Grenier keeps an eye on patients and cleans recovery chairs. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file Buy this Photo

AUGUSTA — MaineGeneral Health has reached out to 17 communities in Kennebec or Somerset counties to set up mobile vaccination clinics.

Joy McKenna, MaineGeneral marketing and communications director, said the towns were identified as having lower-than-average COVID-19 vaccination rates or being adjacent to communities with below-average rates. The goal is to ensure everyone has opportunity to receive a coronavirus vaccine.

Officials in Litchfield, one of the communities that has been contacted, discussed the matter briefly during a Board of Selectmen meeting in June.

Litchfield Town Manager Kelly Weissenfels said last week a date and location have not been set, adding he and town officials are receptive to a mobile clinic.

Weissenfels said a couple of potential locations include the town’s transfer station on Hallowell Road, which sees a high level of traffic throughout the day. He said the local grocery store, Gowell’s Shop ‘n Save on Richmond Road, could also work as a spot for the clinic if there is enough space.

“I’m thinking one of those two would be the easiest and get the most traffic,” Weissenfels said.

McKenna said Friday that MaineGeneral has heard back from two of the 17 communities so far, and that they are in the initial planning stage with Readfield to set up a clinic.

Kennebec County Emergency Management Agency Director Sean Goodwin said their office is working with MaineGeneral in coordinating pop-up clinics. They currently plan to set one up for June 29 at the Readfield transfer station for the towns of Fayette, Wayne and Readfield.

According to Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention data, Litchfield’s vaccination rate is 61%, and 73% of Readfield’s population has received the vaccine as of June 14.

Altogether, 50.8%, or 62,124 people in Kennebec County have received the final dose of the vaccine as of June 18. Of the doses administered, 50.56% were Moderna, with 44.35% coming from Pfizer. Only 5.08% of doses administered were Johnson & Johnson.

In Somerset County, 44.56% of the population, or 22,494 people, have received the final dose of the vaccine as of June 18. Moderna also has the majority in this county, with 56.07% of doses administered, while 31.25% is from Pfizer and 12.68% from Johnson & Johnson.

MaineGeneral has for the past two months worked with businesses, schools and camps in the area to provide vaccinations. McKenna said they are continuing to do so, and that the facility’s Workplace Health Team is happy to work with any businesses who would like to make vaccinations available at their location.

“MaineGeneral will work to make the vaccine available through a variety of channels,” she said. “We want to help anyone who wants to be vaccinated have convenient access to the vaccine. The mobile vaccination clinics are one way to accomplish this goal, but we have been working on many strategies.”

In addition to reaching out to businesses, schools and camps, she said the hospital has made walk-in appointments available at the Augusta Civic Center and opened up appointments for children 12 and older to get vaccinated at the Civic Center.

The mass vaccination clinic based at the Augusta Civic Center has been active since February through a partnership with the Maine CDC and the city of Augusta. As of June 21, 45,741 vaccinations have been administered at the community vaccination site, and hundreds of staff and volunteers have worked to deliver the vaccine.

The volume of vaccines provided has seen a downward trend since the Augusta mass vaccination clinic was first established. McKenna said they were initially staffing seven vaccination stations per clinic until a few weeks ago. Now, they are only staffing four vaccination stations per clinic.

Vaccinations peaked in March, when a little less than 6,000 doses were delivered in a single week. In mid-April, they provided 1,500 doses in a week. Last week, McKenna said, they used 182 doses.

Looking ahead, MaineGeneral plans to continue operating the mass vaccination clinic in Augusta as long as there is community interest in receiving the vaccine.

The facility is receiving all three vaccines, with Moderna and Pfizer are offered more often than the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccinations are free, and as of June 16 anyone age 12 and older is eligible to receive one.

McKenna said it is important that as many people as possible receive the vaccine in order to reach a state of normalcy, concluding that MaineGeneral is proud to have partnered with the state, local communities, businesses, schools and other organizations to achieve this goal.

“Vaccines work,” she said. “We’ve seen a decline in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations with the increasing vaccination rate. This has allowed for the easing of restrictions in our communities, giving us the opportunity to enjoy all the things we love about being in Maine.”

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