Dr. Logan Murray goes through the process of administering vaccines at a mass vaccination clinic at the former Scarborough Downs racetrack last week. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies are set to begin taking COVID-19 vaccination appointments at 24 locations in Maine for those 70 and older, an expansion of the vaccination program that initially will allow more than 4,000 additional Mainers to get immunized every week.

Jeanne Lambrew, Maine’s health and human services commissioner, said the retail giant’s website was set to begin allowing appointments on Tuesday night. To make an appointment, go to walmart.com/cp/1228302. The 24 locations represents all 22 Walmart stores in Maine, plus the two Sam’s Club locations.

The Walmart and Sam’s Club vaccinations are part of a retail pharmacy program coordinated with the Biden administration and separate from Maine’s vaccination effort. Maine would initially receive about 4,300 to 4,800 doses per week at the Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hannaford and Shaw’s grocery store pharmacies would join the program later, but it’s not clear when. The federal retail pharmacy program is expected to expand in the coming weeks.

The 4,000-plus doses for Walmart and Sam’s Club are on top of the 21,475 doses per week that Maine is receiving from the Biden administration to vaccinate the population. Andy Slavitt, senior adviser for COVID response for the Biden administration, said in a tweet on Tuesday that states would receive another boost in supplies next week. The increase for next week would likely be a 7 percent increase over this week, which would be about 1,500 additional doses for Maine.

Maine reported 211 new cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths on Tuesday.

The relatively low daily case count continues a trend of reduced cases since mid-January. Since the pandemic began, Maine has logged 41,630 positive cases of COVID-19 and 639 deaths. The seven-day average of daily new cases stood at 238.6 on Tuesday, compared to 321.7 a week ago and 540 a month ago. Virus prevalence in Maine is similar now to early December, when cases were still on an upward slope.

In another sign that the pandemic is slowing in Maine, the seven-day average of new hospitalizations was 3.1, compared to a peak of 18 in mid-December. Currently, 117 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Maine, including 24 in intensive care.

Maine has administered 200,927 COVID-19 vaccine doses, including 145,894 first doses and 55,033 second doses, the state reported Tuesday. Maine ranks eighth among the states for people who have received one or more doses, according to the Bloomberg News vaccine tracker, at 10.6 percent of the population. Alaska is tops in the nation at 15 percent. The U.S. average is 10 percent.

Cumberland County residents have so far been vaccinated at the highest rate in Maine, with 17,842 doses given per 100,000 population, followed closely by Aroostook County at 17,160 doses per 100,000. Somerset County has experienced the slowest vaccine rollout in Maine, with 8,323 doses given per 100,000 population, according to Maine’s Vaccine Dashboard.

The number of vaccination sites is expanding, with the Maine CDC shipping 1,100 vaccine doses this week to nine community-based health clinics that provide medical care to underserved communities, many in rural parts of the state. The centers include: Penobscot Community Health Care, Bucksport Regional Health Center, Harrington Family Health Center, Hometown Health Center in Newport, Islands Community Medical Services in Vinalhaven, DFD Russell Medical Centers in central and western Maine, and St. Croix Family Health Center in Princeton.

Each location is slated to receive 100 doses of Moderna vaccine, with the exception of Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor, which received 300 doses. The shipments are part of the effort to inoculate those 70 and older.

Teachers, meanwhile, are wondering when they will be in line to receive the vaccine. Maine is not among the 26 states that have released plans for inoculating teachers. Gov. Janet Mills said during a media briefing last week that teachers are “highly valued,” but no decisions have been made on when they will start receiving their shots.

The next group slated to get vaccinated are those 65 to 69, who likely will be able to make appointments the first week of March.

Lambrew, during a media briefing on Tuesday, said that while she appreciates that groups like teachers want to know when immunizations will happen, the state is focused on vaccinating those most vulnerable – seniors and those living in nursing homes and assisted-living centers. When vaccine supply allows, the state will roll out plans to vaccinate other groups, such as front-line workers, including teachers.

But Lambrew said the state doesn’t want to “over promise” when 70 percent of the 193,000 Mainers age 70 and older have yet to receive their first vaccine dose.

“As we approach those upcoming phases, we will be crystal clear about what happens next,” Lambrew said.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, said that supply constraints are currently limiting what groups can be vaccinated, but that could change if supplies ramp up and another vaccine is approved. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is in the late stages of approval by the federal government, and if given final approval, shipments could begin arriving in March. Those supplies would be in addition to the Moderna and Pfizer doses already being shipped to states.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: