We have marked a number of grim milestones since Maine recorded its first confirmed case of COVID in March 2020.

We saw a first phase that spring, a more severe second phase last winter and another wave that swept the state this summer, as the highly transmissible delta variant pushed our healthcare providers to their limits, setting records for the number of people hospitalized, those in intensive care and on ventilators.

We have also seen the death toll climb, as more than 1,000 Maine people have lost their lives since the pandemic first struck.

As serious as those losses are, however, it would be a mistake to lose sight of some positive milestones as well.

On Tuesday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that Maine crossed the 1 million mark for state residents who have received at least one vaccination injection since the shots became available late last year.

That represents 74 percent of the state’s population which has received at least one dose, and 84 percent of the population of people age 12 and over who are eligible for the vaccine.

Maine is fourth best in the nation for the percentage of people who are fully vaccinated – two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine – with 69 percent of the whole population and 78 percent of those who are eligible.

While transmission is still a problem the vaccines make a difference. Unvaccinated people make up more than 85 percent of the people hospitalized with COVID since vaccines became available, and that’s still true even though the vaccinated represent a much bigger share of the population.

A recent study released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services projected that vaccine use prevented about 800 cases, 300 hospitalizations and 100 deaths among older adults in Maine . Nationally, the same study projected that 265,000 infections 107,000  hospitalizations and 39,000 deaths.

There is encouraging news that the number of vaccines administered in Maine is increasing dramatically. In the week ending Oct. 1, more than 28,000 doses were administered, and 85 percent increase over the previous week.

Much of that jump came from eligible people who were receiving a third COVID shot to improve flagging immunity, but many may also have been health care workers who have been vaccinated to comply with a mandate that went into effect on Friday.

Despite threats from a vocal minority of health care workers, providers report that virtually all of their employees have chosen to be vaccinated rather than abandon their jobs.

If these trends continue, we will see less transmission as well as fewer hospitalizations and deaths.

The vaccines are not a guarantee that you can’t get sick, but being vaccinated does make it much less likely and the more people who are vaccinated means that there is less of the contagious virus circulating through our communities.

There has been a lot of bad news over the last 18 months, but not all the COVID news is bad.

Mainers are getting vaccinated, which remains the best way to suppress the virus. There will be more positive milestones in the future if we can keep this up.


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