ORONO, Maine — As of Wednesday, any Mainer age 16 and old is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. The University of Maine System wasted no time encouraging folks to get their shots.
The goal of the "This is Our Shot, Maine" campaign is to get as many UMaine System employees and students as possible vaccinated by the end of the spring semester on May 8.
“Science and our public health leaders have now delivered the vaccines that will end the pandemic,” Chancellor Daniel Malloy said in a UMaine release. “This is our shot and we are pulling out all the stops to get as many of our students and colleagues vaccinated as we can before the end of the semester.”
All of Maine's public colleges and universities from Portland to Fort Kent will assist students in getting a vaccination while promoting that practice through social media posts and on campus.
“We believe it’s the thing to do, it’s the right thing, it’s our one shot as we’re saying," UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy said.
The UMaine System will also be holding educational seminars in the coming days and weeks to help show people the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The whole point is to let folks know that science is behind everything that we’re doing and we’re continuing that with our vaccine emphasis," she added.
Students are a key part of the campaign and will encourage fellow classmates and peers to get their vaccine.
Courtney Kelsey is in her third year with the UMaine nursing program in Orono. She got her vaccine in December and is now administering doses at Northern Light clinics in the area.
“The atmosphere at all of the clinics has been one of joy and hope, everyone is just excited to have this vaccine," she said. “There were lots of deep breaths, ugh this might actually be coming to an end.”
When the sun came out, the Orono campus showed a little bit of life Wednesday afternoon as students sat outside to study or just hang out.
“The campus is great, although I haven’t been on it very much due to the pandemic," Tiana Bucknor said.
Bucknor is a junior on the women's soccer team but transferred to Maine from the University of Dayton, so she is still waiting for her first traditional UMaine experience.
“I’m very excited to, hopefully in the fall be able to do those things and experience those things and bond with my team that way and bond with the community that way," she added.
Many of her teammates already have gotten the vaccine, Bucknor included, and the rest are planning to get it. After a year of following strict guidelines like COVID-19 testing multiple times a week, quarantining, and isolation, Bucknor is excited to see her family who lives near Toronto.
“Seeing them and my grandparents is really big for me, personally.”
Both Bucknor and Kelsey encourage all college-age students or young adults to get their vaccines so campus life can return to some sense of normalcy.
Like COVID-19, this vaccine campaign is not limited to one location. All schools under the UMaine System are encouraging students and staff to get their shots.
Grace Johnson, a junior at UMaine Fort Kent, got vaccinated in December because of her clinical work at local nursing homes. Johnson is a nursing student and got the vaccine to protect her family and the patients she interacts with.
“Part of preventing COVID and continuing to prevent COVID is getting a COVID vaccine," she said. “And I would encourage everyone to get vaccinated.”
Cameron Petit was vaccinated in January because he works on an oncology floor at Maine Medical Center while completing the accelerated nursing program at the University of Southern Maine.
“Actually, a portion of our floor was turned into a COVID unit, so I did work on that for a little bit. That was, interesting," he said.
Petit said he saw firsthand just how scary COVID-19 can be for people, even when they were in intermediate care.
“It was definitely eye-opening," he said.
The two students are now encouraging others to sign up for appointments to get their COVID vaccine shots.
“And the quicker that can happen, the sooner we can move back towards a new normal, or normal, whatever you want to call it," Johnson said.
In Portland, Petit said the campus was "excited" because college-age students are now eligible to get the vaccine. He and Johnson said it's important for younger adults to get these crucial shots.
“I think it will make a world of difference," Petit said.
“Even though we are young, and our immune systems are better, there are cases where young people are getting COVID," Johnson added. "They might be a light case of COVID but then there [are] long term effects and we still don’t know what all getting COVID will do to our immune systems in the long term.”
UMaine said the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that a University ID is valid for students to use when registering for a vaccination appointment.
At this time, UMaine is not requiring but strongly encouraging all students and staff to get the vaccine.