Warren Edgar, a junior at Portland High School, is not surprised Maine has one of the best vaccination rates for teenagers in the nation.

“The people I know wanted to get the vaccine when it came out. A lot of people got it right away,” said Edgar, 16, who got his first shot in May at a site near the Maine Mall and is now fully vaccinated. “People wanted to socialize more, have more in-person school, and we knew that in order to do that, we needed to get the vaccines. I wanted to get the vaccine so that things could go back to the way it was.”

This week, the percentage of Mainers 12 to 19 years old who have had at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine reached the 50 percent threshold. Just shy of 51 percent of the state’s 12- to 19-year-old residents have had at least one dose, and about 47 percent have had a final dose, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said on Monday.

Although there doesn’t appear to be a national comparison for the 12-19 age group that Maine publishes data on daily, the rollout of vaccines to teens and adolescents has been much slower nationwide.

Only about 14 percent of the U.S. population that is under 18 – which includes those younger than 12 who are not yet eligible for the vaccines – has had a first dose of coronavirus vaccine, according to data from Mayo Clinic. Maine’s rate, meanwhile, is 18.2 percent, which is the fifth-highest in the nation. Vermont leads the country at 24 percent.

Many states have very low rates of adolescent immunization, such as 0.3 percent in Idaho, 5 percent in Louisiana and 5.3 percent in Alabama.

Although Maine’s overall rate is high, there remains wide geographic disparity, both overall and among young people. In Cumberland County, 63 percent of those 12-19 are fully vaccinated, the best in the state, compared to 28 percent in Somerset County and 30 percent in Washington County.

Aside from Cumberland, only Sagadahoc, Knox and Lincoln counties had more than 50 percent of their adolescents vaccinated through Monday.

Amelia Connor-McCoy, 16, a junior at Portland High School, said after a school year of mostly remote learning, she has had a good summer because she and her friends are vaccinated.

“We can go and hang out without any worry because we are all vaccinated,” Connor-McCoy said. She said she’s also been able to go to a weeklong sleepaway summer camp at the University of Southern Maine for musical theater and go to the Old Port for ice cream without fretting about catching COVID-19.

Amelia Connor-McCoy, 16, shown in May at Portland High School 20 minutes after receiving her second shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, said that after a school year of mostly remote learning, she has had a good summer because she and her friends are vaccinated. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Luna Ulrich, 15, a sophomore at John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor also is glad to have her social life back. She’s been able to hang out with friends, go shopping and enjoy simple pleasures like playing miniature golf.

“I basically didn’t do anything for a year,” Ulrich said. “It’s cool to know I am in a state that’s doing well.”

Maine’s overall vaccination coverage is third-highest in the country for the percent of its total population fully vaccinated, behind Vermont and Massachusetts, according to the Bloomberg News vaccine tracker.

The state also continues to promote pop-up vaccine clinics around the state. Multicultural Community and Family Support Services in Lewiston hosted one on Sunday that was also an ice cream social. When school resumes in the fall, there could be opportunities to have clinics on site.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, has touted the state’s vaccination effort and it was one of the reasons she allowed the state of emergency to expire last month.

“We have been lifted up by the courage, conviction and resilience that comes from loving a place and its people,” she said in a statement.

While the state’s immunization rate is high, cases of the virus have nosed up recently, as they have around the country with the delta variant fueling the increase. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 20.57 on July 3 to 36.57 new cases per day on July 17.

But despite the uptick, Maine and much of New England are experiencing much lower rates of the virus than most of the country. Maine’s case rate of 2.8 cases per 100,000 population is sixth-lowest in the nation, according to the Harvard Global Health Institute.

In contrast, states with much lower vaccination rates are seeing spikes. Florida, Arkansas, Missouri and Louisiana are seeing rates more than 10 times higher than Maine’s. Florida is the worst in the nation, with 49.3 cases per 100,000 population.

The Maine CDC reported Monday that more than 69,000 positive cases of coronavirus have been reported in the state since the start of the pandemic. There also have been 882 deaths.

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