As I write this column, on Friday, February 12th, I can tell you only two facts that are for sure: 1. My wife and I (see photo) got our first of two Moderna doses on February 4th (we are both over 70 years old) and 2. We have appointments for our second doses on March 4th.

How those two vaccinations came about, feels like a microcosm of the very important “roll out” of Covid-19 vaccinations across the country that is plagued (no pun intended) by inconsistencies and information gaps in a few locations across the country; for us, it was a thoughtful phone call from a good friend…and a bit of tenacity and good luck.

Let us all hope that by the time you read this column on Friday, February 19th or later…there will be a much improved communication/distribution system in Franklin County, the State of Maine, and all across the country for that matter.

The issue here in Maine is that there are too few doses being delivered, at this time, to all of the sites that are now set up to administer the shots. It really should not take a dose of good luck to get one or two of the limited doses (available in Franklin County) of vaccine. Yet, it is what it is, for the moment at least.

I want to first recount our very positive vaccination experience for you, and then the important phone number(s) you should call now if you are over 70 years of age.

On or about Thursday, January 21st, we got a morning phone call from a good friend who is also over 70 years of age. He was pleased to tell us that he had just been given an appointment date and time for he and his wife to get their first Covid-19 vaccinations. The site was at Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington. He then gave us the phone number to call at that time, to get an appointment as well. He noted that we would likely be put on hold at first, adding that we should not hang up. After thanking him profusely, he then went on with his admirable mission of calling other septuagenarian (70-79 years of age) friends in the area.

That “don’t hang up when put on hold” was very good advice. My wife volunteered to be the caller, given that she is eminently much more patient than I. Over an hour after she dialed the number we were given, a human voice came on the line. Then, after answering a few questions, including our birth dates of course, we had appointments for almost two weeks later. It was the soonest date available.

Those two weeks seemed like two months. We, of course, being retired health professionals, knew full well how important it was to be vaccinated in this time of resurgent Covid infections in Maine and elsewhere. We truly felt an overwhelming sense of relief as well as anticipation, having been given our appointment date and time.

So, two weeks later, on February 4th, we showed up at Franklin Memorial Hospital for our shots. From the time we turned in off Route 4, the hospital’s organization efforts became readily apparent. A designated “Covid” parking area sign couldn’t be missed. We entered the hospital through its main entrance and were quickly directed to the left.

A modified “selfie” of my left shoulder as I received my first Covid-19 vaccination at Franklin Memorial Hospital

A series of stops ensued, each manned with very helpful hospital staffpersons who volunteered to be part of the vaccination process. The most important stop, of course, was the vaccination itself (see photo) followed by a monitored 15-20 minute waiting period seated in socially-distanced chairs in case we had a very rare reaction to the vaccine. It was during that waiting period that we were given our respective official cards with our date of vaccination with the Moderna 1st dose, and the appointment date and time for the second dose a month later.

CDC-recommended precautions were carefully adhered to by the staff and us as well, of course. Masks and distancing were nothing new to anyone, given that we have all been asked to adhere to the guidelines for 10 months now. In summary, I can only say that it was a very positive and well-orchestrated process. We headed back home with a very real sense of contributing further to the monumental effort to contain, and hopefully eradicate, this viral pandemic within the confines of 2021.

If you are over 70 years of age: Level 1b in the priority process after first responders such as hospital and health center staff, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and the like) you probably expect me to recommend the process at Franklin Memorial Hospital. That is true, given the very organized and professional process detailed above. Please not that FMH is part of the MaineHealth network that includes Maine Medical Center in Portland. It is among the more rural small hospitals in the network that began vaccinations earlier than most. I list two more options below as well.

Covid Vaccination Sites in Franklin County as of February 15th:

Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington: Call 1-877-780-7545. You will then be asked your name, date of birth, zip code, and phone number. You will then get a call back to schedule your first appointment. A family member can make that initial call for you, if you wish.
WalMart: Go to walmart.com/covid and follow the prompts.
Rangeley Family Medicine: If you are on their patient list, and are over 70 years of age, they will call you to set up an appointment…starting with the oldest first, and working their way down to those 70 years of age. You should note that HealthReach, the health center organization that manages and staffs our local Rangeley Family Medicine, has so far been given a very small allotment of vaccine to be evenly distributed to their eleven health centers across western and central Maine.

By the time you read this column, there may be other options such as independent and/or chain pharmacies that will be giving the vaccinations as well. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (maine.gov/covid19/vaccines has information about all of the vaccination sites across the state, plus answers to essentially all of your questions related to the vaccination process.

There you have it. However, be alert for any updates since February 15th. At this point in time, there are limitations insofar as each state allotments are concerned. This, I am confident, is finally being addressed by our new federal administration and will result in many more doses being available within another month or so.

And…the best of luck (it always helps), as you pursue a vaccination for yourself or an over-70 family member!

We need to write, otherwise nobody will know who we are.
Garrison Keillor

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Respect Each Other, and Respect the Truth

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