Kristi Holmquist, a fourth-grade teacher at Dirigo Elementary School in Dixfield, receives a COVID-19 vaccination Friday afternoon from nurse Penny Michaud at a drive-thru clinic at Med-Care Ambulance in Mexico. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

MEXICO — Clinic organizers said they expected to exceed 260 vaccinations Friday at Med-Care’s all-day clinic for teachers. who signed up to receive the Moderna vaccine.

Next week, Med-Care is conducting drive-thru clinics for those ages 60 and older on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 9 and 10, and all time slots are already filled. It also will be held at Med-Care’s headquarters at 290 Highland Terrace.

Kristi Holmquist, a fourth-grade teacher at Dirigo Elementary School in Dixfield, said she was grateful to President Joe Biden, Gov. Janet Mills and local volunteers who quickly organized the clinic.

“It eases my mind in terms of the daily exposure,” Holmquist said. “It won’t change the way I protect others in my mask wearing and using shields and limiting my trips to the store, but it will give me a sense of protection.”

The state will offer dedicated vaccine clinics starting next Friday for teachers and school staff who are 60 or older.

Each school district will notify teachers and staff who are in that age category about where they can sign up for their shots. The clinics will take place through the weekend and into the following week. The state is partnering with more than 25 health care organizations to offer the clinics.

“We thank our health providers who are working extra hours to offer these dedicated clinics to older Mainers who teach and care for our children,” said Jeanne Lambrew, commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. “This extra opportunity will give Maine teachers and school staff who are at greatest risk from COVID-19 access to this safe and effective vaccine.”

Gov. Janet Mills promised the dedicated clinics when she announced last week that Maine would start basing vaccine eligibility strictly on age. The more than 10,000 school staff who are 60 or older were initially eligible under that plan.

But teachers argued that all educators should be included, and President Biden on Tuesday directed states to prioritize teachers. The governor announced the following day that pre-K-12 school staff and child care providers will be eligible for the vaccine regardless of age. That change made an estimated 36,400 school staff members and 16,000 child care providers eligible for vaccine appointments.

All school employees are now eligible for appointments through pharmacies at Hannaford, Walgreens and Walmart locations. The state has said additional vaccine clinics will begin accepting appointments for school and child care workers as soon as they are able. Maine is expected to receive fewer doses this coming week, even as eligibility has expanded.

“Our schools have been implementing the six health and safety requirements since August and have been successful in keeping both students and staff safe,” said Pender Makin, commissioner of the Maine Department of Education. “We know that a vaccine will support their ongoing efforts in the classroom. I ask them to remain patient as vaccine doses become available to them.”

The Department of Education also reported that as of Feb. 26, the rate of new cases for school staff or students over the last 30 days was 25 per 10,000. That figure is lower than the rate for the general population, which was 81 per 10,000.

More information about COVID-19 vaccines in Maine is available at maine.gov/covid19/vaccines.

Megan Gray of the Portland Press Herald contributed to this report.

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