AUGUSTA — The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has submitted to the federal government its plan for distributing an eventual COVID-19 vaccine, representing the first version of a plan that will be updated and refined in collaboration with health care partners and communities throughout the state.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave states one month to develop a plan for submission by October 16.
Maine's first version offers a framework for an accessible, flexible, and equitable distribution plan, with additional changes expected given the open questions about any vaccines that are eventually approved by the federal government, a news release stated. Stakeholder input will also shape the final plan and its implementation.
Maine joins public health leaders from throughout the country in urging Congress to provide emergency supplemental funding to states to finalize and implement their COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration plans. Adequate resources are necessary to undertake this demanding and ambitious effort to protect the health of state residents nearly a year into their fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Maine is committed to working with the health care sector and stakeholders across the state as we plan for the receipt and distribution of a vaccine when one becomes available," said Governor Mills. "While there is work to be done, the submission of this document represents a positive step forward. My Administration will continue its collaboration with others as we build on our state's COVID response and plan for an eventual vaccine."
"Maine is committed to an accessible, flexible, and equitable process for distributing an eventual COVID-19 vaccine," said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. "We will need an approved vaccine and federal support, along with answers to many outstanding questions, but stand ready with our partners to incorporate a vaccine into Maine's effective strategy against COVID-19."
"This preliminary document represents a collaboration encompassing hundreds of hours of work that started in spring 2020," said Dr. Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine CDC. "I thank our partners throughout the state for joining us in this effort to prepare Maine for a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available."
Maine will use three principles to guide its approach to COVID-19 vaccination:
Equity: Racial and ethnic minorities have experienced rates of disease that far exceed their representation in the population as a whole. Other groups, such as seniors and people with serious chronic medical conditions, have also been disproportionately affected. The plan includes strategies to ensure these groups are successfully vaccinated.
Accessibility: Health care providers in all areas of the state will be needed to make vaccine as easily available as possible. The plan is as inclusive as possible to maximize vaccine accessibility.
Flexibility: Given the many questions that remain about the vaccines and their efficacy in different populations, Maine's COVID-19 vaccine plan remains flexible and will be updated to reflect the latest available information.
Anticipating that supply of vaccine will be limited initially, Maine intends to use as a guide the vaccine priority groups identified by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Science, with future adjustments expected. The Academies developed the framework at the request of the U.S. CDC and National Institutes of Health to assist policymakers in the U.S. and globally in planning for equitable allocation of COVID-19 vaccine.
Phase 1 would include health care workers providing direct patient care in high risk settings, others who work in critical infrastructure, and those working and living in congregate settings. Phase 2 would begin when supply is sufficient to vaccinate more broadly and include people with underlying health conditions, along with school staff and people in correctional settings. Phase 3 would transition to more routine vaccination efforts in both populated and rural areas across Maine, with Phase 4 expanding vaccine access to all residents.
Maine will update the plan as more is learned about vaccine manufacturing, storage, efficacy in different groups, dosing schedules, as well as other factors that will affect the implementation of vaccination on a large scale. The vaccine distribution framework will also evolve with continued input from health care providers and various communities throughout Maine.
Maine's planning for COVID-19 vaccine distribution began in spring 2020, building on the existing network of vaccine providers throughout the state. Maine CDC's Immunization Program has worked with partners to mitigate the impact of vaccine-preventable diseases in the absence of a COVID-19 vaccine and built on this engagement as part of developing today's plan.