PORTLAND, Maine — Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah paid a visit to the large-scale vaccination site at the Portland Expo on Friday and, when asked about Bloomberg News' report that Maine leads the nation in percentage of population fully vaccinated, Shah said, “I’m really proud of that. I can’t underscore that enough. I’m really proud of that.”
According to Bloomberg, Maine is also third in the nation for percentage of population that has received first shots.
Bloomberg's analysis is based on percentage of total population vaccinated. According to Bloomberg, as of Monday, April 19, 32.3% of all Mainers are fully vaccinated and 48.5% have received a first dose.
As of Monday, April 19, the Maine CDC reports 50.38% of Mainers age 16+ have received their first shots and 38.2% of Mainers 16+ have received both doses. Nobody under the age of 16 is currently eligible to receive the vaccine.
“I think some of the secrets to our performance so far are, number one: Credit goes to Maine people. You can’t get ‘x’ percentage of your population fully vaccinated unless ‘x’ percentage of your population wants to be fully vaccinated," Shah said. "And at a time when other states across the country, from Alaska to Mississippi, are running into walls of hesitancy, we’re not seeing that. We’re seeing urgency in Maine.”
Shah also credited Gov. Janet Mills’ plan, which he said has ensured both efficiency and equity.
“We’ve got more work to do on the equity front, we’ve got more work to do on the efficiency front.," he said. "But I think the system that we’ve set up, which relies on a strong partnership with health care systems, as well as the movement of doses around the state every single day to ensure that there’s a supply and demand consistency, those are the things that I think have gotten us to where we are.”
Shah had great things to say about the Portland Expo site's role in combatting the virus, as well as the site's commitment to reaching out to what he called Maine's "unempowered and unaffected" communities.
"Large-scale, community-focused vaccination sites of this nature are our way out of the pandemic," Shah said. "We always talk metaphorically of the light at the end of the tunnel and vaccines are that light at the end of the tunnel. But it's large-scale sites of this nature that are the vehicle that will get us out of that tunnel."
Shah said the biggest thing that differentiates the Portland Expo site from other sites across the state is the targeted outreach they do to different communities across Maine.
"What this opportunity means is that groups who are of different ethnicities, different backgrounds who may not feel comfortable on their own one-on-one going and getting vaccinated can come in as a group. And our colleagues at Mercy and Northern Light will accommodate that. They'll allow for scheduling of 10, 20, 30, 50 people all at once who can come in as a group," he said. "But we all know from our own experiences in health care, getting through the door is only the first part. Navigating the entire system is really important as well. And so what our colleagues here at Northern Light have done is make sure that when those groups come in, they are provided cultural brokers, way-finders to help them go through the entire process from getting here to getting their shot."
Shah said this is important because as much talk as there is of vaccinating quickly, it's equally important to focus on who gets vaccinated.
"Who we vaccinate is just as important as how quickly we vaccinate," he said.
When asked about the upcoming April school vacation and whether there are concerns of it leading to a spike in cases, Shah said that's a risk. But he also said, "in public health, what's predictable is also preventable."
"It's hard to know what may happen as a result of vacations. That is a risk. It's certainly a concern. After other vacation periods, whether it was Thanksgiving or then later in the December holidays, we did see increases and that's not surprising," he said. "The way that I think about that is that it's a risk we know about and what we've seen in the pandemic is we've had a pretty good average when it comes to predicting when there might be events that will lead to surges."
If you are traveling outside of the state of Maine for April vacation, there are COVID-19 protocols you need to be aware of before you return.
If you leave the state, you must either:
- provide a negative test result within three days of returning to Maine. You must quarantine while you wait for your test results.
- quarantine for 10 days upon arriving in Maine
There are two exemptions:
- Traveling within New England (New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, or Rhode Island) does not require testing or quarantining.
- A person who is fully vaccinated, meaning 14 days have passed since their final dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Those who have gotten one dose are not exempt.