LEWISTON — If you’re 70 years old or older in Maine, you can now get the COVID-19 vaccine.

But good luck finding the shot.

Maine gets about 18,000 doses a week. It has over 193,000 residents who are 70 or older, and many of them are clamoring for the vaccine.

“We ask everyone to bear with us just a bit longer,” said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, at the CDC’s regular news briefing Tuesday. “There will be vaccine available.”

The state this week released a list of 18 vaccination sites for older Mainers. Most of the sites are hospitals and include Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston and St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, as well as MaineHealth’s Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington and Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway.

Almost as soon as the site went live, hospitals began getting inundated with callers wanting appointments.

However, MaineHealth had just 1,800 openings for all of its locations — and received calls from more than 18,000 people. Neither CMMC nor St. Mary’s is taking appointments yet.

“We’re getting hundreds of phone calls an hour with people asking, ‘Can we be put on a list?'” said St. Mary’s spokesman Stephen Costello.

But there is no list.

“What we’re saying is we will be reaching out to them,” Costello said.

The problem: Hospitals don’t have enough vaccine to meet the demand. Central Maine Medical Center didn’t receive its vaccine at all this week, so it had no doses to give out. St. Mary’s gets 300 to 400 doses a week, but it has about 14,000 patients who are 70 and older. At that rate, it could take the hospital months to vaccinate all of its older patients, and that’s not including members of the general public or anyone in upcoming vaccine phases, such as people under 70 and those with health conditions.

“We’re working as quickly as we possibly can to get this done,” Costello said. “A lot of it is not up to us. A lot of it is up to how much vaccine the state can get and therefore pass along to all the health care providers.”

It is unclear when, or if, Maine will see its vaccine supply increased.

Logistics are also a problem. Hospitals are still trying to get enough people to take calls and man mass vaccination sites, and they’re trying to create the processes necessary for the public to schedule appointments based on the number of doses received that week. Hospitals are only told how many doses they’ll get days before the vaccine arrives.

CMMC, St. Mary’s and MaineHealth are encouraging people to check their websites for updated information rather than calling.

“What’s happening is we’re getting inundated with those types of phone calls asking questions and patients can’t get through,” Costello said. “So we don’t want that to happen if somebody needs to get through as a patient.”

Shah’s advice: Keep checking back, know your doctor or health system may reach out to you when vaccine is available, and be patient.

“We ask that you bear with us and bear with those hospitals and clinics,” Shah said. “Don’t get upset with the person on the line when you finally get through. We are all trying to ramp up so that eventually folks will get vaccine, but we are in a situation where there is more demand than there is supply.

“We projected these sort of things would happen. We’re trying to make sure we can get as much capacity as possible,” he said.

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