Hannaford Supermarkets on Tuesday became the latest retailer to offer COVID-19 vaccines, with the chain’s pharmacies opening up shots for eligible individuals at 35 locations across Maine.

This week, Hannaford will have 3,500 doses of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine available, with more doses expected in the coming weeks. Also announced on Tuesday, another mass vaccination site, at the Auburn Mall, is slated to open on March 17. The Auburn site will be operated by Central Maine Healthcare and have a capacity of 1,000 patients per day.

State health officials also reported 182 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, with no additional deaths. Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Nirav Shah said he has some concerns that cases might be plateauing rather than continuing to decline.

The addition of Hannaford sites and the Auburn Mall come on the same day two new mass vaccination sites opened — at the Portland Expo, operated by Northern Light Health, and at the former Marshalls store in Sanford, run by MaineHealth. Residents between the ages of 60 and 69 can begin getting shots starting on Wednesday.

As more vaccine shipments come in and the state immunization program balloons, Maine is expanding the number of places where people can get COVID-19 shots.

For those 60 and older, to make an appointment at Hannaford, go to  www.hannaford..com/pharmacy/covid-19-vaccine.   Some of the locations offering the vaccine include Westbrook, South Portland’s Millcreek location, Portland, Auburn, Biddeford, Saco and York, among many other Hannaford stores.

“As more vaccine becomes available, we’ll be opening up more vaccine appointments and extending to additional pharmacies,” said Wendy Boynton, director of pharmacy services at Hannaford.

Hannaford joins Walmart, Sam’s Club and Walgreens pharmacies as Maine’s retail partners in a federal program to offer COVID-19 vaccines through pharmacies.

The mass vaccination sites that previously opened includes Scarborough Downs and the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

Meanwhile, the head of the Maine Education Association teachers union is now urging Gov. Janet Mills to re-consider the decision to have strictly an age-based vaccination program moving forward.

Grace Leavitt, president of the MEA, had last week expressed support for the plan, but said in a letter to Mills on Monday that “many of our educators are extremely distraught and angry that all educators aren’t prioritized to receive vaccinations now.”

Leavitt also encouraged Mills to prioritize school staff with high-risk medical conditions and staff who work with special education students. The Mills plan will have dedicated clinics for school staff but will still be age-based, so in March only teachers 60 and over will receive the vaccine.

From left, Brie Colville, a pharmacist, Nick Bloom and Hollie Maloney, both certified pharmacy technicians, prep syringes of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine before the doors open on the first day of the Northern Light Mercy Hospital mass vaccination clinic at the Portland Expo on Tuesday, March 2, 2021. Maloney said they were prepping around 500 doses for the day. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Regardless of prioritization issues, a record number of doses are arriving in Maine this week. The two new mass sites open as Maine’s immunization program ramps up, with more than 55,000 doses expected to be shipped to the state this week, including 15,000 doses of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Overall, Maine has given 355,810 doses, including 231,353 first doses, representing 17.21 percent of the population.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has said that if Maine can regularly receive about 50,000 doses per week, it will no longer be constrained by supplies to vaccinate the population.

Since the pandemic began, Maine has recorded 44,944 positive cases of COVID-19, and 703 deaths.

Last week, Mills unveiled a new age-based system for the vaccination program, with people 60 and older becoming eligible March 3, 50 and older April 1, 40 and older May 1, 30 and older June 1 and 16-29 starting in July. The timeline may accelerate if vaccine supplies become more plentiful.

The previous plan prioritized those with high-risk health conditions, but was scrapped in favor of an age-based plan. Mills and Shah defended the move, arguing age is the biggest risk factor for COVID-19. Other groups, such as some teachers and hospitality workers, have also criticized the plan.

Hilary Koch, of Waterville, whose family has high-risk health conditions, said they were told by the state all along that high-risk people would receive priority, only to have the rug pulled out from under them last week.

“For every single person who is high risk, I’m sorry but this policy doesn’t serve them – it really doesn’t and it puts them at the back of the line,” Koch said. “I feel misled and I feel that people with medical disabilities have been misled.”

Current hospitalizations in Maine stood at 69 on Tuesday, an increased of seven over the previous day, with 25 in critical care.

This story will be updated

 

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