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Following Biden's lead, Mills allows 50,000 Maine educators to receive COVID-19 vaccine

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services said an estimated 36,400 school staff and 16,000 child care providers are now eligible to receive the vaccine.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Gov. Janet Mills on Wednesday changed course and added some 50,000 school staff and child care providers to the list of those eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

The move comes one day after President Joe Biden directed every state to prioritize school staff and child care providers eligible regardless of their age.

Mills previously announced on Friday that the state would vaccinate Mainers based solely on their age, with eligibility open to those 60 and older opening up Wednesday.

"Based on the President’s directive, we are updating our plan today to make school staff and child care workers eligible," Mills said in a release Wednesday afternoon. "We will continue to work day and night with our health care providers to get shots into as many arms as possible, as quickly as possible, focusing our efforts on those most at risk of dying if they contract the virus.”

Participants in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, including certain Hannaford, Walgreens, and Walmart pharmacies, are now directed to give available appointments exclusively to school staff and child care workers, Mills' office said. Vaccine clinics in Maine will now accept appointments for school staff and licensed child care workers as soon as they are able.

Grace Leavitt, president of the Maine Education Association, said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that the MEA and its teachers appreciate the efforts of Mills and Biden to prioritize educators and childcare workers.

"MEA appreciates the fact that national and now state leaders are showing our educators the respect they deserve, treating them like the essential workers they are and granting them priority access to the vaccine," Leavitt said.

Also on Wednesday, Maine adopted the new federal policy definition of school staff and licensed child care workers, which includes pre-primary, primary, and secondary schools, Head Start and Early Head Start programs, teachers, staff, bus drivers, and those who work as or for licensed child care providers, including center-based and family care providers.

Previously scheduled appointments made by people 60 or older will not be canceled. Mills said additional information about vaccinations for this group will be released later this week.

But she said in the release that the new timeline announced Friday will slow if the federal government does not increase the supply of vaccines to match the increased number of people eligible to receive it.

Mills directed those eligible to visit Maine's COVID-19 vaccination website for the most current information.