Gov. Janet Mills announced revisions Wednesday to the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan that aims to speed up inoculations of older Mainers and individuals with high-risk medical conditions.

Here are answers to a few questions. Have others? Email them to [email protected]

What are the latest changes to the initial phases of the vaccination plan?

Perhaps the biggest shift is that Maine residents between the ages of 70 and 74 could be eligible for vaccines – along with everyone 75 or older – as early as late-January, or whenever Maine transitions from Phase 1A to Phase 1B. Additionally, adults with underlying medical conditions that put them at higher risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19 would be eligible for vaccination during Phase 1B.

Previously, Maine had been following federal guidance that recommended vaccinating individuals 75 or older and “essential” front-line workers during the next phase. Younger individuals with high-risk medical conditions, meanwhile, had been slated for vaccination along with 65- to 74-year-olds during Phase 1C, which isn’t likely to start until midspring.

So while Wednesday’s changes (also in response to evolving federal guidance) aren’t monumental shifts, they seek to address the stark reality that roughly 85 percent of Maine’s 450-plus deaths have been among people 70 or older.

I’m in those groups. How will I know when I can get vaccinated?

The Mills administration and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said they will have more information on vaccinations for those 70 and older next week. In the meantime, the administration is asking older Mainers to wait before contacting their health care providers.

Are any groups newly eligible for vaccination now during Phase 1A?

Yes.

The Mills administration announced that vaccinations will begin this week for police officers, firefighters, correctional officers and “critical COVID-19 response personnel.” The latter designation would include Maine CDC staff working on COVID-19 as well as employees at IDEXX Laboratories in Westbrook, Abbott Laboratories in Scarborough, Puritan Medical Products in Guilford and Jackson Laboratories in Bar Harbor. All of those companies are involved in producing testing equipment and supplies or running tests.

Since mid-December, Phase 1A has been focused on hospital workers and other medical personnel, first responders, medical professionals who work outside of hospitals (such as private practitioners, specialists and dentists), and residents and staff of long-term care facilities.

What about other “essential workers” such as teachers and grocery store employees? Are they still eligible for vaccination during Phase 1B?

Yes they are because of the higher risk of exposure they face at work. Teachers, day care workers, postal workers, grocery store employees and individuals who work in food or agricultural production all appear to be included in Phase 1B, which is likely to begin later this month or in February.

However, it was unclear Wednesday whether the Maine CDC will prioritize vaccinating residents 70 and older and people with high-risk medical conditions before these other front-line workers. Asked Wednesday whether there will be tiers within Phase 1B, as there have been within Phase 1A, Mills said the timing of those various vaccinations “depends on a great number of things.”

“We haven’t made those determinations or drawn those lines at this point because we want to, first and foremost, save as many lives as possible, reduce suffering and look at the most vulnerable people in Maine first and foremost,” Mills said.

A news release from Mills’ office suggests a lot depends on the pace of vaccine deliveries under the incoming Biden administration.

“Identifying these workers and determining how they will be vaccinated will occur as more information on the vaccine supply in the Biden administration emerges,” the release stated. “Should vaccine supply increase, Maine can more quickly vaccinate people whose work puts them at greater risk of contracting or transmitting COVID-19.”

I’m 65 years old but relatively healthy. Did anything change for me after Wednesday’s announcement?

Potentially. The governor said in her new policy statement that after a “significant number” of people 70 and older have been vaccinated, or if the supply of the vaccine increases, Maine will move to vaccinate those 65 to 69 during phase 1B, which is in line with new federal recommendations.

So what’s the current anticipated timing for each of these phases?

This is very tentative and depends on the pace of vaccine production, distribution to the states and Maine’s ability to get those shots “into arms,” as the Maine CDC’s Dr. Nirav Shah likes to say. But here are some anticipated timelines outlined by Mills on Wednesday:

Phase 1A (medical professionals, first responders, police/fire personnel, critical COVID-19 response personnel, long-term care home): through the rest of January.

Phase 1B (Mainers 70 and above, adults with high-risk medical conditions, essential workers, and possibly some 65- to 69-year-olds): starting in late-January or early February into April.

Phase 1C (Mainers 65 to 69, other critical workers): starting in April and continuing through late spring or early summer

Phase 2 (all other Mainers between 16 and 64): Probably starting in late spring or summer

How many vaccines have been administered in Maine to date?

As of Wednesday, the Maine CDC reported 62,004 doses had been administered across Maine. That figure includes 53,511 first doses and 8,493 second doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

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