AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced Friday that the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) has placed another order for doses of COVID-19 vaccine, for 18,550 people, to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Operation Warp Speed.
This order for the sixth week of vaccine distribution represents the latest in a series of vaccine requests that Maine CDC will file in the coming weeks and months, as specified by Operation Warp Speed, as part of Maine's accessible, flexible, and equitable distribution plan for the vaccine.
Maine CDC's order reflects the maximum number of doses available to Maine for new vaccines. The order, expected to arrive early next week, will comprise 9,750 doses from Pfizer and 8,800 doses from Moderna for the sixth week of distribution. The total is 1,375 more doses than last week’s allocation but less than the 32,975 doses Maine received the week of Dec. 28. Additionally, vaccination sites have begun to receive and administer the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine for individuals vaccinated in the first weeks of distribution.
Combined with the previous orders, Maine expects to have enough to vaccinate approximately 117,575 people in the first six weeks of distribution.
Since COVID-19 vaccination began in Maine on Dec. 15, 70,228 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given to health care workers and long-term care residents, including 59,611 people who have received first doses and 10,617 people who have received second doses.
Maine has vaccinated the eighth highest percent of its population of all states to date, according to the U.S. CDC.
"While we remain concerned about the limited and unpredictable supply of vaccine from the federal government, our progress in vaccinating Maine’s health care critical infrastructure continues," DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said. "Today's order allows us to continue vaccinating people in long-term care settings, start vaccinating other emergency personnel, and turn toward Maine residents whose health and lives are at greatest risk from COVID-19."
"The Maine Immunization Program continues to add partners to Maine’s vaccination effort to ensure that doses get to at-risk people as quickly and fairly as possible," Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said. "As we await details on how the Biden Administration plans to increase vaccine supply, we ask all Maine people to continue to wear masks in public, stay six feet apart, wash hands often, and avoid non-essential gatherings, because these are the best ways we can all help limit further potential spread of the virus."
In light of progress to date, this week, Gov. Janet Mills updated Maine’s vaccine strategy. Now included in Phase 1b are older Maine residents, beginning with those 70 and older; followed by additional emergency service personnel such as police and firefighters; and then people who support infrastructure critical to Maine’s COVID-19 response.
The updated strategy next moves in Phase 1b to adults of all ages with high-risk medical conditions that place them at greater risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19. When taken in combination with the vaccinations already given to medical providers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities, Maine DHHS says these updates accomplish two goals: 1) to save lives by focusing on Maine people who are at greater risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19; and 2) to further protect and ensure the continuity of emergency response services and COVID-19 response infrastructure on which Maine people rely.
Community-based health care providers continue to be vaccinated as part of Phase 1a. In coordination with Maine CDC and DHHS, professional associations in Maine, including the Maine Medical Association (MMA) and Maine Osteopathic Association (MOA), are helping connect patient-facing personnel with sites able to vaccinate them. In addition, a number of health systems, community hospitals, federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), and larger independent physician locations are vaccinating community physicians.
Additional information on vaccination for people age 70 and older in Maine will be available the week of January 18 at Maine’s COVID-19 vaccine website. Older Mainers should hold on contacting their health care providers about getting vaccinated as vaccine sites set up their scheduling systems.
Maine’s emergency medical system will start vaccinating public-facing law enforcement and fire department staff next week.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that Maine would receive $12 million for vaccine distribution and $77 million for COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and other supports. While the state has yet to receive the funds, the Mills Administration is grateful to the Maine delegation that led the effort to get this funding included in legislation that was signed into law on December 28.
Additional financial help may be on its way to states as well, with President-Elect Biden’s release yesterday of his plan to tackle the pandemic.
“With these comprehensive proposals, President-elect Biden demonstrates a refreshing seriousness of purpose to combatting this truly devastating pandemic,” Mills said. “These proposals will help our state as we work day and night to keep Maine people healthy, get vaccines into peoples’ arms, and chart a course for economic recovery. I applaud the President-elect and urge Congress to take it up as quickly as possible so we can get this pandemic behind us and get back to normal.”
In the sixth week of distribution, shipments of 18,550 doses of vaccine will be sent to hospitals (10,775), outpatient groups (3,075), public safety (2,600), and organizations helping to vaccine people in long-term care facilities not in the retail pharmacy program (2,100). Maine has paused on sending additional vaccine to the retail pharmacy program operated by the U.S. CDC as it has sufficient vaccine doses for the coming week.
Maine DHHS said the State is committed to vaccinating at high velocity and not wasting any doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. This means that some individuals are vaccinated before others and not always precisely in the order of the Phases in the Maine vaccine plan. That said, the work will not stop until every resident in Maine who wants and needs a vaccine gets one, according to Maine DHHS.
Maine's planning for COVID-19 vaccine distribution began in spring 2020. The vaccine distribution framework will continue to evolve with the changing vaccine supply and continued input from health care providers and various communities throughout Maine.