SKOWHEGAN — If you’re going to the Skowhegan State Fair, you will now be able to get vaccinated against COVID-19 while you are there.

Local hospital officials announced the opportunities Wednesday, a day before the fair’s opening day after they and organizers said last week that no such plans were under consideration.

The decision to hold clinics at the fair comes as case counts continue an upward trajectory in Maine, and Somerset County continues to have the lowest percentage of its county population fully vaccinated, at 55%. State health officials reported 217 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, as Maine averaged 149 new cases per day over the past seven days compared to an average of 18 cases for the week ending on July 7.

In a phone call Wednesday, Lisa Caswell, director of pharmacy at Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan, said that dates for walk-in vaccine clinics had been finalized that afternoon to take place during the Skowhegan State Fair.

Four clinics are now scheduled during the fair, each running from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. near the grandstands at the fairgrounds, located where the EMS ambulance is typically stationed during events. The clinics will be held Sunday and Monday and on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 20-21.

The Moderna vaccine will definitely be offered, Caswell said, while a smaller supply of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be offered as well.

The issue with the J&J vaccine is due to a shortage statewide, though Caswell said that she’s contacted the Maine Immunization Program to work out logistics.

“I have some J&J vaccine, and we will use it until we run out,” Caswell said.

“The idea of a clinic has been on our mind since about June,” Caswell said. “We thought it would be a good opportunity to get a lot of people vaccinated, potentially, if they’re willing. They’re already coming to the fair from a distance.”

The 10-day fair is scheduled to run Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 21, with a crowd that organizers expect to be larger than 2019’s turnout of about 100,000 people.

Last week, Thomas Dillon, president of the Skowhegan State Fair, said there had been “no serious talks about anything” in terms of vaccine clinics in conjunction with the event, while Redington-Fairview’s chief nursing officer said they would be open to offering a clinic at the fair.

Caswell added that the issue with scheduling the clinics in the previous weeks stemmed from the lack of manpower, given that the hospital staff is already busy. The EMS Department stepped up and offered their resources; this department also assisted in vaccine efforts through home visits across the county.

“We’re so thrilled that they’re able to do this for us and come through for us again,” Caswell said. “We’re really excited to be able to do this.”

Redington-Fairview’s emergency medical services department has been administering J&J vaccinations for homebound members of the community, including residents with illnesses, recent fractures or hospitalizations resulting in limited mobility, or those confined to wheelchairs.

In addition, walk-in clinics are also offered at Redington-Fairview every Thursday from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. People at least 18 years old can show up without an appointment and choose between the two-dose Moderna vaccine or the one-shot option from J&J.

Those who are homebound and wish to schedule a COVID-19 vaccination should contact [email protected] or leave a message at 207-858-2364.

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