Portland Public Schools and several other districts in coastal Maine communities have high estimated rates of vaccinations among eligible students, according to a new dashboard released by the state Tuesday.

But many other Maine districts are believed to have moderate or low vaccination rates among students, with a handful showing rates of under 25 percent.

The dashboard, released by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education, provides an estimate of student vaccination rates for ages 12 to 18. Schools did not collect data from individual students; the estimates are based on counts of young people vaccinated in each zip code as reported to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and on Department of Education data on student numbers in each district. The dashboard will be updated about every two weeks.

“These data will equip school leaders with information to make the best decisions for their communities and help parents and students better understand vaccination rates in their areas,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew in a news release. “Paired with our work to support schools in offering vaccination clinics and promoting the benefits of these safe and effective vaccines, we can curb the spread of COVID-19 by boosting vaccination rates in schools throughout Maine.”

Maine has been a leader in vaccinations nationwide with 70.5 percent of eligible residents 12 and older fully vaccinated, according to Maine CDC data. Statewide, 52 percent of percent of youth ages 12 to 19 have been fully vaccinated, and 57 percent have had a first dose. No vaccine is yet authorized for children under age 12.

The dashboard shows several school districts with student vaccination rates above 75 percent, including the state’s largest, Portland Public Schools, where the vaccination rate for eligible students is estimated to be 85 to 89 percent. Portland Superintendent Xavier Botana said in an email Tuesday evening it was too early to comment on the data, which he hadn’t yet had a chance to review.

Cumberland-based School Administrative District 51, which also includes North Yarmouth, is also among districts believed to have high vaccination rates, with the state estimating the percentage of vaccinated students there at 85 to 89 percent.

“I am pleased with this number – it speaks well for families’ commitment to helping mitigate the effects of the pandemic,” SAD 51 Superintendent Jeff Porter said in an email. “It will be a data point that we use for assessing our procedures moving forward, along with other mitigation factors and data points.”

Porter said SAD 51 is also collecting its own data internally on staff and student vaccination rates and will compare those numbers against the state’s data. The district is also planning to offer student vaccination clinics this fall, just as they did in the spring.

In Buxton-based School Administrative District 6, which also serves the towns of Hollis, Limington, Standish and Frye Island, Superintendent Paul Penna said student vaccination rates are just one factor the district will be looking at as it continues to make decisions about COVID protocols such as masking. Others include positive cases in specific schools, community infection rates, hospitalizations and age-specific data.

School nurses in SAD 6 began gathering information on student vaccination rates last spring, so Penna said he expected his district’s rate to be above 50 percent. The rate is 70 to 74 percent, according to the dashboard, a number Penna said he is happy with, although he would like to see it increase.

“We’re obviously happy with that,” he said. “We’re moving in the right direction with vaccinations.”

There are more than 250 school districts in Maine, though some districts with very small student populations don’t show up in the dashboard for privacy reasons. Vaccination rates for charter schools also are not included.

Only four school districts are listed as having student vaccination rates below 25 percent. They are: Stacyville-based Regional School Unit 89, where the vaccination rate is estimated to be 20 to 24 percent; Cutler Public Schools, 15 to 19 percent; School Administrative District 76 on Swans Island, 15 to 19 percent; and Lisbon Public Schools, 20 to 24 percent.

Publishing school vaccination rates is part of a broader effort by Gov. Janet Mills’ administration to support vaccination of school staff and students against COVID-19 and ensure a safe return to in-person learning.

Other aspects of the plan include supporting schools in launching free vaccine clinics and continuing to enroll schools in a free pooled COVID-19 testing program. As of Monday, 302 public and private schools have signed up to participate in the weekly testing program this fall.

In addition to student vaccination rates, Maine DHHS is collecting staff vaccination rates from schools and will be publicly posting those rates online starting in September. The reporting will include fully vaccinated staff at pre-K-12 public schools and charter schools, private schools and career and technical schools.

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