AUGUSTA, Maine — Editor's Note: The story above aired April 12, 2021.
Gov. Janet Mills' administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced in a release Wednesday that the mobile vaccination unit (MVU) making its way around the state has been approved for a three-week extension beyond its initial 60-day approval.
The intention of the MVU is to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to people in rural and under-served communities across Maine, as well as complement the large- and small-scale vaccination clinics already underway in the state.
According to Mills' office, the MVU will continue offering vaccinations through July 2, 2021, leading into the July Fourth holiday weekend.
The new sites include Pittsfield, Rumford, Rangeley, Limington, and Kittery. The scheduled stops, which remain subject to change and will begin accepting appointments shortly, are as follows:
Pittsfield, June 9-12
Located at the Cianbro Office Building (101 Cianbro Square)
Rumford, June 14-17
Located at Black Mountain (39 Glover Road)
Rangeley, June 19-22
Located at Rangeley Health and Wellness (25 Dallas Hill Road)
Limington, June 24-27
Located at the Municipal Complex (425 Sokokis Avenue)
Kittery, June 29-July 2
Located at the fire station (3 Gorges Road)
According to the Mills administration, vaccination will be available at no charge both by appointment and on a drop-in basis. To make an appointment at one of these locations, people should call Maine's community vaccination line at 1-888-445-4111 or visit the state vaccination website.
"Each dose is really important and we've got to get this disease under control in every area that it's in. We can't afford to neglect these areas at all," said FEMA spokesperson Patrick Boland.
The MVU was only the second of its kind in New England when it launched on April 12 at the Oxford Casino in Oxford. It has since provided more than 6,500 doses of COVID-19 vaccine at stops in Windham, Biddeford, Fryeburg, Turner, and Waterville, according to the Mills administration.
The unit will be done in Waterville Wednesday, then return to Oxford May 14 and 15 and to Windham May 17-20 to administer second doses to individuals who previously received first doses of Moderna vaccine at those locations during the temporary pause on the administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The MVU has returned to administering the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. It will next travel to Old Town, Milbridge, Calais, and Madawaska over the next several weeks, before traveling to the five new sites announced Wednesday.
"The MVU is a convenient, accessible option that’s reaching people who want to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in their communities," Maine DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said in Wednesday's release. "As it continues its route to the start of the Fourth of July holiday, we encourage anyone who needs a shot to make an appointment or drop by."
“Bringing vaccines to people who might otherwise have trouble getting them remains a key part of our plan to vaccinate people throughout Maine quickly and equitably,” Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah added. “I encourage folks to swing by the MVU when it’s in their neck of the woods to get a shot so they can safely enjoy summer in Maine.”
"With our community, and the older community members, it's important that we get back to as normal of a life as we can get to," said Limington select board member Stan Hackett.
The mobile vaccination unit will be at the Limington municipal building June 24-27. Hackett says this is a good, convenient opportunity for those in his area to receive the single dose J&J vaccine.
"They don't have have to worry about the second shot too, which some people, they just don't have the time, or don't want to take the time," said Hackett.
The MVU is staffed by FEMA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Public Health Service, and others, with support from state and local emergency medical services, local health care providers, and volunteers.
“The coordination between the State of Maine and FEMA has been extraordinary, reaching over 6,500 individuals across the State, ensuring access to a vaccine for all who want one,” Paul Ford, acting regional administrator and federal coordinating officer for COVID-19 in FEMA Region 1, said. “We are excited about the extension of the units in Maine until July 2, to increase accessibility and administration of these lifesaving vaccines.”
“Having this asset in Maine is a real game changer and allows us to bring much needed vaccine to rural and underserved areas,” Maine Emergency Management Agency Director Peter Rogers added. “The outstanding partnership at the local, county, state and federal level made this a reality.”
As of Tuesday, May 11, the Maine CDC reports 658,656 Maine people have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, which is more than 58 percent of Mainers age 16 and older. The Maine CDC reports more than 53 percent of Mainers are fully vaccinated.