For most of us, the past year has been the longest and hardest in memory. But in mid-December, we started to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Maine began receiving the first doses of the Pfizer and Moderna coronavirus vaccines, and the first health care workers in our state received their shots. As I write this, just over 150,000 Mainers have received at least their first dose of the vaccine, which gives me incredible hope. With more vaccines on the horizon for approval, it seems we’re getting closer and closer to turning a corner and getting back to life as we knew it. However, we know we still have a ways to go, so I wanted to give you an update on where we are in Maine’s vaccine rollout plan.
Right now, Maine is still receiving a very limited supply of vaccines, with about 20,000 doses coming in to the state every week. This problem isn’t unique to us; it’s a problem every state is experiencing as the federal government works to increase the supply and get it to states as soon as possible. With over 1.3 million Mainers, it’s important that there is a plan in place to prioritize who gets the vaccine first. Right now, vaccines are available to health care workers, residents of long-term care facilities, those aged 70 and older and a select few others. Next will be Mainers ages 65-69.
The CDC is still finalizing which essential workers will be next in line for the vaccine. I have received calls from many of you wondering if your occupation will be included. The answers are unknown to us right now, which is frustrating for so many. I continue to advocate for all of you through the Department of Health and Human Services and ask that you reach out anytime with any questions.
The vaccine supply is likely to remain constrained for some time. But some good news is that 24 Walmart and Sam’s Club locations in Maine have begun receiving more than 4,000 doses of vaccine per week, in addition to the state’s current allotment, which will help get more Mainers in more parts of the state vaccinated. New information is coming out all the time, so for the most up-to-date information visit this page: https://www.maine.gov/covid19/vaccines. Another great resource is the CDC’s Vaccine Consult Line, where you can talk to a real person to get your questions answered. The number is 866-962-6062 and it’s open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Please note that you can’t schedule vaccine appointments through this line.
One priority for the CDC in distributing vaccines is equity. This takes many shapes in our state. Equitable access to vaccines means that we get a vaccine to everyone who wants it, no matter who or where they are. This is a complicated process, but I have a close eye on it.
Most of us are anxious to get our vaccine, which unfortunately makes us a good target for scammers. If someone calls you and says they can get you a vaccine or can put you on a waiting list in exchange for money or personal information, be wary. Ask for their name and a call back number, and never give your Social Security number.
I know many people were upset by the recent news that MaineHealth vaccinated contractors from out of state and employees who were working from home. Giving away this precious resource to individuals who do not fall within the CDC’s guidelines was a very bad decision on the part of MaineHealth. Vulnerable Mainers have been waiting patiently for their turn to be vaccinated, and allowing others to skip the line is not only unfair, it sows distrust in the system. The CDC has promised to continue clearly communicating guidelines and to keep an eagle eye on who is receiving vaccines. I will also be following this closely.
If I can ever be of assistance to you, please never hesitate to reach out to me on my cell at (207) 200-6224 or by email at Chloe.Maxmin@legislature.maine.gov. You can also sign up for my regular email updates at www.mainesenate.org or get updates from my Facebook page, facebook.com/ChloeForMaine. You can access content on my Facebook page even if you don’t have an account yourself, and I try and share information that is useful to those in our community. I work on your behalf, and I always want to know what our community is thinking and feeling. This is a very frustrating time. We will get through it together.