As Maine continues its fight against the coronavirus, vaccine rollout is one of the top priorities for health officials and Maine Gov. Janet Mills. But there are many questions surrounding the process and the vaccine itself. Here’s what you should know.
The answers to these questions have been derived from the U.S. CDC, Maine CDC, and various health experts.
This story will be continually updated as the pandemic response evolves.
Chapter one: Maine Vaccine Numbers
MAINE COVID-19 VACCINATION DATA (State updated 1/17/21)
- Current Maine Vaccination Phase: 1a
- EXCEPTION - If you are over 70, you are now eligible to get vaccinated as an early start to Phase 1b. Here are the locations for 70+ 1b vaccinations
- Total Maine Vaccinations: 92,008
- 1st Dose Vaccinations: 74,760
- 2nd Dose Vaccinations: 17,248
Chapter two: Vaccine Basics
What is the vaccine?
There are currently two COVID-19 in distribution across the U.S. that have been given emergency-use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: one from Pfizer, and another from Moderna. There are several others in development.
Can the vaccine make me sick with COVID-19?
No. Neither of the vaccines in distribution contains the live virus that causes COVID-19.
So, how do they work?
They teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Sometimes this process can cause symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building protection against the virus that causes COVID-19.
How many doses do I need?
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both call for two doses. An interval of 21 to 28 days between doses is recommended, but the World Health Organization has said that the interval can be extended up to six weeks amid vaccine supply constraints.
Can I get the vaccine for free if I don't have insurance?
Yes. NEWS CENTER Maine's Chris Costa is here to VERIFY.
Should I get vaccinated if I’ve already had the virus?
Yes. Regardless of the previous infection, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people should plan on getting vaccinated when it's their turn. If you’ve been infected in the last three months, the CDC says it's OK to delay vaccination if you want to let others go first while supplies are limited.
Will vaccines be effective for COVID-19 variants?
Scientists believe current vaccines will still be effective against the variant, but they are working to confirm that. On Wednesday, British officials reiterated that there is no data suggesting the new variant hurts the effectiveness of the available vaccines. Vaccines induce broad immune system responses besides just prompting the immune system to make antibodies to the virus, so they are expected to still work, several scientists said.
After I get the vaccine, do I have to keep wearing a mask?
Yes. While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to us to help stop this pandemic, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, and staying at least 6 feet away from others.
Click here for more vaccine information from the U.S. CDC.
Chapter three: Vaccine Rollout in Maine
When did Mainers start getting vaccinated?
Maine began vaccinating front line health care workers with the Pfizer vaccine on Dec. 15. Since then, more than 92,000 Mainers have been vaccinated, with about 17,000 receiving their second dose.
When can I get vaccinated?
The Maine CDC says it will take months for enough vaccine to be produced for people in the United States. Maine is following vaccine priority recommendations from a U.S. CDC advisory group. As vaccine availability increases, these recommendations are expected to expand to include more groups.
Right now, Maine is currently in Phase 1a. That means select people – healthcare workers, people who live and work at long-term care facilities, and public safety employees – can get the vaccine.
Right now, people age 70 and up can also request an appointment to get the vaccine. Information for people ages 65 to 69, and other Phase 1b groups is not available yet.
1a (current phase)
- Health care workers (such as doctors, nurses, and EMTs)
- Residents of long-term care facilities
- This phase has been updated to include other emergency first responders and public safety personnel, including firefighters, police and other law enforcement officers, as well as corrections officers.
- Critical response personnel such as people who manufacture, distribute, process, or report COVID-19 tests, whose work, if disrupted, would severely hamper the ability of Maine or the United States to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- People who work in-person directly on COVID-19 response at Maine CDC, which spearheads the State’s COVID-19 response, and private companies such as IDEXX, which supports Maine’s COVID-19 testing capabilities; Abbott Laboratories, which manufactures COVID-19 tests for use in Maine and across the nation; Puritan Medical Products, which manufacturers swabs for COVID-19 tests; and Jackson Laboratories, which is conducting whole genome sequencing to detect COVID-19 variants for Maine.
1b (set to begin in late Jan. and last through June)
- Mainers aged 70 and older, followed by those 65 and older
- People with high-risk medical conditions
- Front line essential workers such as food and agriculture, postal service, manufacturing, groceries, public transit, education, and daycare workers
1c (May and June)
- Other essential workers not included in phases 1a or 1b
- People aged 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions
Phase 2 (June and beyond)
All people ages 16 and older who are not in Phase 1, with vaccine starting to become available to the general public.
When it’s my turn, how do I go about getting vaccinated?
You need to make an appointment.
Only people who are eligible under the phased approach will get one right now.
The Maine CDC recommends going through your primary care doctor or health care provider to set up getting the vaccine. Some local and independent pharmacies are working with Maine CDC to distribute the vaccine.
The Maine CDC has announced a list of 34 COVID-19 vaccination sites across 14 of Maine's 16 counties. If you are age 70 or over, you may hear directly from your health care provider about getting a vaccine, or you may contact the locations for an appointment. All sites require an appointment.
Hospital systems like MaineHealth have a phone number you can call or text. Other hospitals have e-mails or dedicated vaccine sign-up websites.
The Maine CDC notes that because Maine’s supply of vaccines is limited, appointments may not be immediately available and will be scheduled on a rolling basis.
Additional guidance will be available when the vaccine becomes available to the general public.
How will I know when it's time to make an appointment?
First – know if you’re eligible. You can find that info on the Maine CDC website.
Hospitals are also reaching out to patients in their system.
While hospitals differ in how they schedule appointments – there is one major problem: the state does not have enough doses of vaccine to schedule everyone.
Northern Light Health sites have a website to sign up.
President of the Maine Hospital Association, Steven Michaud, says, “Until there’s vaccine in the state, we can schedule all the people we want, but we’re hamstrung by the federal government’s ability to get us the vaccine.”
The Maine CDC and Maine Hospital Association say they simply cannot meet the overwhelming demand.
How much does the vaccine cost?
COVID-19 vaccine will be procured and distributed by the federal government at no cost to enrolled COVID-19 vaccination providers. Administration fees may vary.
What do I do if I have more questions about the vaccine process?
The Maine CDC has readily available resources on its website for questions about the vaccine and the coronavirus in general.
Health care organizations, such as MaineHealth, are asking that people be patient if calling with questions. They also are directing people to visit their website, rather than calling.
For more information about Maine's vaccine distribution plan, click here.