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Rural Maine hospital receives its first COVID-19 vaccines

Millinocket Regional Hospital recently administered its first 200 doses of the Moderna vaccine.

MILLINOCKET, Maine — Millinocket Regional Hospital in the Katahdin region finally received the vaccines needed to begin community vaccination efforts for people over the age of 70.

Todd Phillips has been coordinating the vaccination effort for Millinocket Regional Hospital and has worked side-by-side with other hospital departments to coordinate the logistics of vaccination clinics both on and off-site. 

Phillips said they've created a plan that can be scaled up to accommodate more patients and have given special consideration to the needs of the elderly who make up a large population of the Katahdin area. 

"We knew there would be challenges, we knew there would be difficulties going into this, whether it be distribution, the vaccine itself, or the actual vaccination process, but we are up to the challenge and that challenge is just one more challenge that comes with living rural in the state of Maine, and so that is why we focus on preparation, collaboration and really counting on people to be patient," Phillips said.

For patients in the Katahdin Region who have not yet pre-registered for the COVID-19 vaccine at any other location, they can do so by visiting www.mrhme.org/getvax. When the hospital has a dose for them, patients and non-patients will receive a personal phone call from a staff member notifying them of the day and time of their appointment.

Hospital officials remind Mainers not to sign up for vaccines at multiple sites. Signing up in multiple lists can cause an issue with the state's allocation process.

Remember, patients and non-hospital patients are required to get their second dose at the same location as they received their first dose.

Millinocket Regional Hospital currently has 2,800 people in its vaccine database and recently administered its first 200 vaccine doses. Phillips said they have had the capacity for a larger vaccination effort, but are waiting to receive a larger quantity of vaccines. 

"We've also included a mail-in to those 70-plus to make sure that, if they are not savvy with the internet, that they had something physically in their hand that they can also make reference to when it comes to information about the vaccine," Phillips said.

Phillips added that the hospital received 200 first doses allotted for those eligible in the first “public” Phase 1B. Those were delivered this week in Millinocket and Patten.

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