AUGUSTA, Maine — Editor's note: The video above aired Oct. 25, 2021.
With more people in Maine hospitalized with COVID-19 than ever before, Maine Gov. Janet Mills announced Wednesday morning that effective immediately, all Maine adults are eligible for a COVID-19 booster shot.
Previously, only adults with underlying medical conditions were eligible for the shot in Maine.
People 18 and older may receive a booster if they received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least six months ago or if they received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago.
Mills said the decision was prompted by an overburdened health care system and a "sustained surge of COVID-19 cases," particularly among unvaccinated people.
“Vaccines are saving the lives of Maine people and keeping them from getting seriously ill from COVID-19,” Mills said, in part, in a statement. “With Maine and other New England states confronting a sustained surge, and with cold weather sending people indoors, we want to simplify the Federal government’s complicated eligibility guidelines and make getting a booster shot as straightforward and easy as possible."
Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said the Delta variant persists despite a "strong" vaccination rate in the state that is reducing hospitalizations and deaths.
To date, nearly 20.7% of fully vaccinated people in Maine have received a booster dose, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Maine has the third-highest rate of fully vaccinated residents at nearly 72%.
Still, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday that 280 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, with 77 of those in critical care units and 36 on ventilators. Only 45 of Maine's 360 critical care beds were available.
Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah and Maine DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew are scheduled to hold a state COVID-19 and vaccine briefing at 2 p.m. today.