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Somerset County expands vaccination efforts with Kennebec Valley Community College site

The Fairfield community college is helping Mainers get the COVID-19 vaccine by lending one of its facilities to a Northern Light rural hospital

FAIRFIELD, Maine — Public health leaders across the country continue to say over and over that we need to work together to get through the pandemic. Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield is helping do just that by lending one of its facilities to a Northern Light rural hospital to start its vaccination efforts.

This clinic is the first of what Northern Light Inland Hospital hopes to make a weekly event to vaccinate as many people as possible. On its first day the vaccination clinic gave 92 shots to people.

Currently, for a COVID-19 vaccine, you need to be 70 years or older and you have to pre-register for an appointment.

"Each Monday, we update our websites based on how many additional spots we have. We try not to post any spots until we have vaccines available cause we don't want anybody to sign up and then have to cancel, so once we know we have the vaccine, we post the spots, and then they typically become filled very quickly," Rick Barry, Vice President of Nursing and Patient Care Services at Northern Light Inland Hospital in Waterville, said.

All other registration slots for this specific vaccination clinic in Fairfield are all full for the rest of the week, but more spots will be added as they become available.

Ray Winship and his wife Connie were two of the lucky ones who were able to secure a dose at the new clinic at the community college.

"I was very happy to be able to get an appointment, and the whole process was easy," Ray Winship said.

Here is a link to the website the Winships and many others used to secure a dose. 

For hundreds of others, getting a coronavirus vaccine has not been easy.

"Please be patient. As soon as vaccines become available, every single member of Northern Light and every other hospital system in the state is trying to do the best they can to provide the vaccines as quickly as they can," Barry said.

Kennebec Valley Community College's president Richard Hopper said he didn't hesitate to lend available space to help this small rural hospital with its vaccination efforts.

"We want to do everything we can to help end this pandemic, and meliorate the problems that we have," Hopper said. "Inland Hospital has asked if our students and faculty, particularly the nursing and medical assisting students, can use this as an opportunity to learn, but also to administer vaccines and to participate...and use this as a learning opportunity."

Remember that currently, every vaccination center, including this one in Fairfield, is by appointment only.

"The more vaccine they offer us, the more space we'll be able to hold. That may determine whether we do two days or three days or four days. It all depends on the vaccine allotment that we receive in that period," Barry said.

"Each week, after receiving their vaccine allotment from the Maine CDC, Inland will open new clinics at KVCC based on that availability. The hope is to hold at least one clinic each week, but vaccine availability will determine how they can proceed," said Sara Barry, the Regional Marketing and Communications Director for three Northern Light hospitals.

Mary McLaughlin and her husband have not been able to secure their appointments at their local hospital in Millinocket. McLaughlin said she called two weeks ago and they're both 86-years-old with underlying conditions.

"There was only one place you could sign up that was at the hospital. I signed my husband and I up. I haven't heard anything," McLaughlin said. "He has heart problems and he is a diabetic."

People who qualify but have not secured an appointment can't just show up at hospitals or vaccination clinics, because there are no extra doses available, every dose is just allotted with pre-registration. "Please do not come to the site without an appointment because we won't be able to accommodate you," Barry said.

The Winship's are excited to hopefully spend some quality time with loved ones, they have not been able to see their family members not friends for a year.

"This frees us up from that kind of worry. We know that we are not going to give it to anybody, and we are not going to get it from anybody," Connie Winship said.

“We are very excited to be moving into this phase of community vaccinations,” said Terri Vieira, hospital president. “We have started dose two of the vaccine with our own staff, and we’re pleased to be moving onward to vaccinate more people in the communities we serve. It’s progress, it’s hope. At the same time, we have to be patient as the vaccine supply is still significantly lower than we had hoped.”

You do not have to be a patient at a Northern Light hospital to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment at any of their hospitals.

The best way to schedule one is through their vaccination website, you can find more details by clicking here.

You can also call (207) 204-8551. 

“Getting the vaccine gives us hope and makes us feel good that we are doing our part to get things back to normal," Ray Winship said.

Each week, after receiving their vaccine allotment from the Maine CDC, Inland will open new clinics at KVCC based on that availability. The hope is to hold at least one clinic each week, but vaccine availability will determine how they can proceed.

You can also visit the Maine CDC website to see all vaccination sites across the state and any open appointments.

Inland Hospital leaders are asking individuals to please not call their primary care office or the hospital to try to register. The two options for registering at this time are on the website or the special registration phone line.