Maine public health officials will distribute an increased amount of COVID-19 vaccine doses next week to outpatient health groups and independent pharmacies as the state moves forward with targeting older residents.

While inoculations continue at a steady but slower-than-expected pace due to limited supply, 636 new cases were reported on Friday, along with four additional deaths.

Maine’s allotment of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine for next week is 17,575 doses, nearly 1,000 fewer than it received this week. Of those, the biggest share, 10,900 doses, will still go to hospitals, with four facilities – Maine Medical Center in Portland, Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta and Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston – accounting for 8,400, or 77 percent.

However, another 3,575 doses will go to outpatient practices, including Martin’s Point, InterMed and Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor, to begin vaccinating older residents. That’s the highest amount outpatient practices have received in the first seven weeks of Maine’s vaccination effort.

Notably, no doses are being directed next week to the pharmacy chains RiteAid and Walgreens, which have been conducting vaccination clinics for staff and residents of long-term care facilities. State officials said they have paused sending additional vaccines to the retail pharmacy program operated by the U.S. CDC because it has sufficient doses. Instead, 2,900 doses will be given to 14 independent pharmacies, which also is the highest weekly total for that category.

Some health organizations are already having to triage their limited vaccine doses.


Dan Loiselle, chief medical officer for InterMed, a large physician-owned private practice that serves southern Maine, said in a message to patients Friday morning that it’s “focusing our vaccination efforts on patients 80 years and older, particularly those with a medical condition that puts them at greater risk of serious complications from COVID.”

The supply InterMed received this week, Loiselle wrote, is less than one-third of what is needed to vaccinate patients 80 and older.

“We also ask that you do not call or email with questions about vaccine availability so that our phone lines can be free for patients who are calling with acute medical issues,” he said.

As of Friday, 78,395 people had gotten at least one dose of vaccine and 19,876 people had received both doses. Since the first dose was administered on Dec. 15, the state has averaged about 2,500 shots per day. It’s not clear how many of each have been health care workers, first responders or residents and staff of long-term care facilities — the categories in Phase 1A of the state’s vaccination plan.

Even with limited supply, plans are underway for large-scale vaccination clinics. MaineHealth announced Thursday that it plans to open a mass vaccination site at Scarborough Downs, although it could still be weeks before enough vaccines make that feasible. Other sites are under discussion as well.

“We are hopeful that very soon we can continue to build out our distribution sites, to rural Maine and smaller sites,” Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said Thursday in response to concerns raised by independent practitioners who felt left out of the conversation.


Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases surged back up toward the latter part of this week, building on what has been a recent up-and-down pattern in Maine. After four consecutive days of new cases below 450 between Saturday and Tuesday, the last three days have seen cases rise above 625 each time.

The 7-day average for daily cases is now 528, which is down from 621 last Friday but up from 461 this time last month and 205 two months ago. New cases were reported Friday in every Maine county, led by Cumberland County with 203 and York County with 104.

Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Nirav Shah explained Thursday that the recent pattern is a function of when people are getting tested. More are going in for tests on Monday or Tuesday, which yields results — and subsequently more cases — on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, he said. He said more important than those fluctuations are the broader trends over seven or 14 days. Right now the picture is not clear, although there are some glimmers. Maine’s testing positivity has decreased from 5.9 percent to 3.9 in the last two weeks, or one incubation period, partly due to an increase in testing volume.

“There are signs on the horizon for example that because testing has expanded, which had brought our positivity rate down, we are going to be better able to detect more cases. That’s a good thing,” he said. “I will say I remain concerned about the hospitalization numbers, particularly the increase of indivudals who are in the intensive care unit.”

Hospitalizations increased by eight to 190 on Friday, including 61 in intensive care and 19 on a ventilator. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 1,309 individuals have been hospitalized in Maine at some point with COVID-19. So far in 2021, hospitalizations have remained steadily high, from a low of 180 on Jan. 3 to a high of 207 on Jan. 13. The number of patients in intensive care units has not dropped below 50 since Jan. 3.

Overall, there have now been 36,274 confirmed or probable cases and 540 deaths in Maine since the pandemic hit 10 months ago. Total cases have doubled in just over one month. The number of deaths has more than tripled since two months ago, right before Thanksgiving.

Thursday was exactly one year after the first COVID-19 case was detected in the United States. Since then, there have been nearly 25 million cases and more than 400,000 people have died from the virus — the most of any country by far.



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