AUGUSTA, Maine — With emergency use authorization imminent, the Maine Center for Disease Control (CDC) is preparing for shipments. On Dec. 4, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Maine CDC announced it had formally placed the first order for doses of COVID-19 vaccine for 12,675 people. Now, exactly one week later, a second order has been placed–this time for 37,850 people.
The formal order was placed with the U.S. CDC and Operation Warp Speed. This order represents the second in a series of vaccine requests Maine CDC will file in the coming weeks and months, Maine DHHS said Friday.
Maine CDC's order reflects the maximum number of doses that the federal government recently informed Maine would be available in its second allocation. Combined with the first order, Maine DHHS says the state will have enough to vaccinate approximately 50,525 people.
Maine CDC expects the second allocation to comprise 13,650 doses from Pfizer and 24,200 doses from Moderna.
This week, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee recommended authorization of the Pfizer vaccine. The Moderna vaccine is scheduled for the same type of review next week. The FDA is now reviewing the advisory committee’s recommendation and is expected to issue its authorization within days.
"With FDA authorization of the vaccine days away, we are working with our health care providers to ensure they are ready to vaccinate their workers as soon as these doses arrive," Maine DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said in a release. "Today’s second order allows Maine to expand vaccine supply for hospitals, assisted living and other residential facilities, and some home health workers."
"Vaccination for front line health care workers could start in Maine as soon as next week,” Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said. “Maine CDC continues its work with health care providers to take the steps needed to receive, administer, and report vaccinations. We remain committed to efficient and equitable distribution of the vaccine."
Operation Warp Speed has told Maine CDC to expect the initial vaccine order to arrive potentially next week, and Friday’s order to arrive the following week. Materials needed to support vaccine distribution, such as face shields, are beginning to arrive at sites in Maine.
The first allocation will be administered to frontline health care professionals, as well as residents of skilled nursing and long-term care facilities, per guidelines approved by the U.S. CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
In the second week of distribution, Maine DHHS says shipments of 25,625 doses of vaccine will be sent to hospitals that have a provider agreement with the U.S. CDC. Higher amounts were allocated to hospitals that have had the most COVID-19 patients in the past 60 days.
Three home health agencies that have signed up will receive a total of 900 vaccines. EMS agencies in Maine will also begin receiving allocations of vaccine, with this order reflecting vaccine for 500 responders. And 100 doses will go to the Houlton Band of Maliseets; the other tribal governments will get vaccine directly from the Federal government.
In parallel to these allocations, Maine will also dedicate 10,725 doses to the retail pharmacy program to vaccinate staff and residents of over 680 skilled nursing and other residential facilities.
In addition to the Dec. 4 order and Friday's order, Maine CDC has been told to expect a third weekly allocation of 13,650 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and second weekly allocation of 10,700 doses of the Moderna vaccine, pending FDA authorization. The Pfizer vaccine requires ultra-cold storage, while the Moderna vaccine can be stored at normal freezing temperature.
While recent developments on potential vaccine approval are promising, questions persist about the federal government’s allocation plan and ongoing provision of these lifesaving vaccines. Maine's congressional delegation has asked the federal government for additional information and greater transparency to help the state plan to vaccinate its residents and contain the pandemic as soon as possible.