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Maine accelerates COVID vaccination timeline

Mainers age 50 and older will be eligible on Tuesday, March 23

AUGUSTA, Maine — Mainers age 50 and older will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine beginning Tuesday, March 23, Gov. Janet Mills said Friday.

As the state accelerates its vaccination timeline, all Mainers age 16 and older will be eligible as of Monday, April 19, Mills said.

Maine Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Nirav D. Shah said in a release Friday afternoon that the state expects its weekly vaccine allocations to increase, and he praised the state's vaccination clinics for their work.

“Maine has been working around the clock to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible," Mills said in the release. "As we continue to make progress, and with more appointments becoming available and an increase in supply expected in the coming weeks, we believe it is appropriate to accelerate our timeline and make more people eligible earlier. While this is certainly welcome news, Maine people should keep in mind that, even though they may be eligible, it still may take time to get an appointment and get shots into arms. We will continue to work with vaccine providers across Maine to expand our ability to deliver shots, and we are pleased that we are able to take this important step forward.”  

Jeanne Lambrew, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, said two of every three Maine residents age 60 or older already protected with at least one dose of the vaccine.

Currently, Mainers 60 and older are eligible for the vaccine, after Mills announced an age-based timeline on Feb. 26.

Vaccination for adults age 50 and older was not expected to begin until April 1.

According to the release, some clinics will not immediately be prepared to schedule vaccine appointments for Mainers younger than 60, while others are already preparing to offer appointments.

In a special Maine COVID-19 vaccine briefing Friday, Dr. Shah said Mills' announcement came for two reasons: the first being the steady progress of vaccination in the state. He said about 50 percent of Mainers age 60 and over have received at least one dose while about 80 percent of people in their 70s have received at least a single dose. One in four Mainers, he said, has now received at least one dose, and over 15 percent have completed their vaccine series.  

The other reason is that he and Commissioner Lambrew separately visited COVID vaccination sites across the state last weekend and found that spots are not being filled as fast as they first were a few weeks ago. Shah said in the past two days, some sites have said were unfilled.  

"This announcement continues our forward momentum. We don’t want to slow down the line one bit,” Dr. Shah said.

To find a vaccination site, visit the state vaccine website.