Lewiston Armory Facilities Manager Louie Turcotte, left, and Deputy City Administrator Dale Doughty look over the covered armory floor in July 2020. The armory at 65 Central Ave. served as an emergency shelter last year and is among possible sites for COVID-19 vaccinations. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal file photo

LEWISTON — City officials confirmed Monday that they are working with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to identify potential COVID-19 vaccination sites in the city, in anticipation of when the state has enough doses to supply community clinics.

City Administrator Denis D’Auteuil said the city has been asked by the CDC to identify a range of sites, including a downtown location, and has come up with a “handful,” including the Lewiston Armory and the Oak Street bus station.

They’ve also looked at sites closer to Exit 80 of Interstate 95 due to ease of access.

“We continue to have those discussions but nothing permanent has been decided, no decisions have been made up to this point,” he said. “But, we’d very much like to see a site here in Lewiston.”

D’Auteuil said city staff aren’t sure of the operational details of the potential site, and were simply tasked with identifying and vetting locations. He said the site needs to be walkable and have good vehicle access that will not create traffic issues.

The Lewiston Armory at 65 Central Ave. was also used in 2020 as an emergency wellness shelter for the homeless.

The search for a site in the Lewiston-Auburn area comes as state health officials have outlined plans for community vaccination sites elsewhere in Maine.

Last week it was announced that the former Scarborough Downs racetrack in Scarborough is set to become a mass-vaccination site run by MaineHealth, with the capacity to handle at least 1,000 vaccinations daily. But the timeline for when it could open also relies heavily on the state’s vaccine supply, which has so far been inadequate for a ramp-up of clinics.

Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah told the Portland Press Herald last week that the state is still finalizing plans for mass-vaccination clinics in more populous areas, including at Brunswick Landing, the site of the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, along with others in the Bangor and Portland areas.

“None of them is open because the supply of vaccine is nowhere what would be needed to start supporting any of these sites,” Shah said. “We hope that will be changing very soon, but I can’t predict right now which of these would be or could be the next one to open.”

In Lewiston, it’s unclear whether the site would be operated by the state or a regional health partner.

CDC spokesman Robert Long said Monday that due to its population, the Lewiston-Auburn region is a “logical location for a community vaccination site,” but said the specifics of how it would operate and a timeline for opening depend on vaccine supply to Maine and other factors.

“Community vaccination sites, where a large number of people can safely and efficiently be vaccinated, are central to Maine’s accessible, flexible, and equitable vaccination plan,” he said. “We will continue to examine and plan for additional sites across the state, working with partners to get them up and running as soon as the federal government is able to consistently provide enough vaccine to supply them. We look forward to continuing to work with partners in Lewiston, Auburn, and throughout Maine to protect the health and lives of Maine people through our vaccination effort.”

D’Auteuil said the CDC is looking in Auburn as well, and estimates they are looking at multiple sites within the region. Calls to Auburn officials for comment were not returned by early evening Monday.

Lewiston Mayor Mark Cayer said a vaccination clinic in the city makes sense given its size and accessibility via the interstate.

“We’ll do everything we can to assist in this rollout of vaccinations,” he said.

During a Great Falls Forum discussion last week, Shah said the state doesn’t know when its weekly shipments of vaccines will increase. Right now, he’s expecting the state to continue receiving about 18,000 per week for the next several weeks.

As the state has moved into Phase 1B of its vaccination plan, which includes individuals 70 and older, demand has far exceeded Maine’s vaccine supply. New clinics, including a MaineHealth location in Westbrook, opened Monday with a goal of vaccinating about 1,800 patients this week, but health providers have said it will likely be difficult to get an appointment due to the limited supply.

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