SANFORD, Maine — As of this week, children ages six months and older are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccination clinic in Sanford that is coordinated by the York County Emergency Management Agency has now expanded to allow shots for some of the state's youngest.
On Thursday, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah toured the facility and spoke with families and children getting the vaccines. Shah says the vaccine eligibility expansion is a major milestone in the state's fight against COVID-19.
"It's important for the entire state, but I think it's particularly important for parents," Dr. Shah said. "There are so many parents of kids ages six months to five years that have been waiting for months and months for their kids to get vaccinated so that their families could really enjoy more of what vaccination confers, which is that return to some degree of normalcy."
While Shah acknowledges that many families have been waiting for vaccine eligibility to expand to young children, he says that authorization coming during the summer could allow for more children to get their shots.
"Being able to have parents afforded with the time to talk some time off work, bring their kids in to get vaccinated. Not having to worry about having them miss school in order to be vaccinated. All of those things work in the same direction. They increase the likelihood that parents will bring their kids in," Shah said.
The York County Vaccination Center is located at the former Marshalls Building at The Center For Shopping at 1364 Main St. in Sanford, which is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10-3:30 p.m. Staff and volunteers at the vaccination site are also trying to make it a comfortable environment for children of all ages with coloring, stuffed animals, and movies.
Shah says the state is not experiencing any shortages of vaccines, and there's enough for anyone eligible that wants one. Shah says the state is also working to ensure vaccines are available for kids in rural communities.
"For people in other parts of the state where driving to the doctor is an all day affair, we're trying to fill in those gaps. We're working with for example, with pharmacies across the state to offer vaccines specifically for kids three years and up. We're also working with federally qualified health centers and community health centers which have deeper reach across the state to offer the vaccine," Shah said.
Maine has also created a website to help find the closest age appropriate vaccination site to where you live.