MAINE, USA — The COVID-19 vaccine that arrived in Maine in recent weeks continues to be distributed to first responders and congregate care facilities across the state.
Some first responders in Maine have already received their first dose of the vaccine, and more will receive the opportunity to be vaccinated in the coming days and weeks.
"It was pretty painless. Took about 30 seconds to get and then I'm being monitored for 15 minutes and I'll be on my way," Lt. Jonathan Keenan of Westbrook EMS said shortly after he got his first dose of the Moderna vaccine.
First responders are not required by the state to receive the vaccine at this time, but it is an option most will take, according to Westbrook Fire Deputy Chief Steve Sloan said will take.
"That speaks volumes because they understand the science behind these vaccines," he told NEWS CENTER Maine.
In Cumberland County, cities and towns are working together to distribute the vaccines. Portland, Scarborough, and Gorham are already administering them, starting with their own EMS departments and then vaccinating departments in other towns in the county.
"[It] is a smart move because they're the ones who are going to be in close contact with all these other providers administering vaccines," Sloan said.
Keenan and Lt. Joe Carroll, also of Westbrook EMS, both said that it's important for them to get vaccinated to keep their community safe and to show the community the vaccine itself is safe.
"So that we can show the general public that we believe in the vaccination and it's important for everyone to get it," Carroll said.
"I think it's important for first responders to get the shot because we're out in the community. It's the responsible thing to do so that we can treat people that are sick currently or could potentially be exposed to this," Keenan said.
While vaccines are being administered, more people are needed to do the job, said George Allen, chairman of the Department of Pharmacy at the University of New England.
UNE is training its students and others already in the workforce to administer vaccines, and many of the people who have taken the course have already been certified by the state.
"Many of our faculty, as well as some of our new learners who have put out in the workforce, are now giving COVID vaccines," UNE Professor Dan Mickool said.
"I'm really proud of the fact that we've been able to roll out this program and enhance the number of people able to vaccinate against COVID-19," Allen added.
Last month, Governor Janet Mills signed an executive order allowing pharmacy technicians to administer vaccines.
The University of New England expects to hold an additional course during the spring semester for students and for people already in the workforce.