AUGUSTA, Maine — Editor's Note: The above video about Maine's retail pharmacy vaccination program aired on Feb. 17.
In the eleventh week of distribution, Maine is set to receive enough first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to vaccinate 27,740 people, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced Thursday.
This is an increase of 3,510 doses from this week's allocation.
Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah explained in the coronavirus briefing Thursday that while the math may suggest the increase is actually over 5,000, the real number reflects a change in the way the federal government counts doses.
Shah explained that early on in the vaccination process, it was discovered that each vial of the Pfizer vaccine contained a sixth dose, rather than five. Starting next week, the allocation numbers that are being reporting will officially reflect the presence of that sixth dose.
In effect, Shah said this makes explicit what was previously implicit. It will be the same number and type of vials, it will just be a recognition of this extra dose.
But, Maine is, in fact, getting a real increase in doses in next week's allocation.
Up until recently, Maine has been receiving nine so-called "trays" of the Pfizer vaccine. Next week, Maine will be receiving 12 trays.
"This increase of 3,510 doses is welcome, we are thankful for it," Shah said.
In addition, Operation Warp Speed will distribute at least 4,300 doses directly to 24 Walmart and Sam's Club pharmacies in Maine. Maine DHHS says details are not yet set, but an additional 4,800 doses will also be distributed to another pharmacy chain and a to-be-determined number of doses to at least one federally qualified health center.
Maine DHHS said the new pharmacies and clinics receiving vaccines on top of the State’s allotment will be announced next week, along with how to get an appointment.
Maine CDC's order, expected to arrive early next week, will comprise 14,040 doses from Pfizer and 13,700 doses from Moderna for the week of February 22.
Distribution is as follows:
- 24,040 doses to hospitals
- 3,500 doses to outpatient groups
- 200 doses to organizations helping to vaccinate people in long-term care facilities not in the federal retail pharmacy program
Maine has stopped sending additional vaccine doses to the retail pharmacy program operated by the U.S. CDC, as it has sufficient vaccine doses at this time. Maine DHHS said as of February 10, 21,926 first doses have been administered to the roughly 26,000 residents and staff eligible in Maine’s long-term care facilities participating in the program.
Additionally, vaccination sites continue to receive and administer the second dose for individuals vaccinated with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines through a separate distribution process.
Maine DHHS said combined with the previous orders, Maine expects to have enough to vaccinate approximately 227,215 people in the first eleven weeks of distribution.
As of February 17, 265,991 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given to health care workers, long-term care residents and staff, and older Mainers, including 185,906 people who have received first doses and 80,085 people who have received second doses.
The dashboard on Maine’s COVID-19 vaccination website shows that 13.8 percent of Maine residents have gotten their first doses. This includes 47 percent of Maine residents age 70 and older.
"Our goal for next week is that the majority of Mainers 70 and older will have received their first dose," Maine DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said in a release. "By maximizing vaccination at large sites while supporting local coalitions to vaccinate hard-to-reach residents, Maine can achieve that goal."
Maine DHHS noted that according to the Bloomberg vaccine tracker, Maine ranks sixth among states in the highest percent of first doses administered to its residents.
"Adding vaccination site options helps us vaccinate at-risk Maine residents quickly and fairly," Shah said in a statement. “But weekly vaccine allocations from our federal partners remain constrained, so it’s important that Maine people not let down our guard. Wearing masks, washing hands, physical distancing, and avoiding crowds continue to be the best ways to keep each other safe.”
Watch the Thursday Maine CDC briefing here: