Bill Gillespie of Winthrop, middle, jokes with his daughter, Libby Mortimer, right, as CMMC RN’s Tammy English, back left and Jennifer Jordan prepare to give him his COVID vaccine booster shot at Central Maine Medical Center on March 5. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

AUGUSTA — Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday, “I’m optimistic” for the first time in a while because there are fewer people with COVID-19 and more vaccines are coming into Maine.

However, when it comes to vaccinations, Androscoggin County is behind most of Maine, state data shows. 

On Thursday the state’s webpage showed that as of March 10, statewide, 21.8% of Mainers have received their first dose, while in Androscoggin County it was 16.3%, the second lowest of Maine’s 16 counties.

The counties with the highest percent for first doses are Lincoln at 27% and Cumberland at 24.5%. The lowest was Somerset County at 15.2%. Franklin County stood at 18% and Oxford County at 18.2%.

During the twice-weekly news briefing Thursday, Shah was asked why the vaccination rates in Androscoggin County were low and why there is a lack of mass vaccination sites.

Shah said they’re working on it.


While mass vaccination sites have yet to open in Androscoggin County, Shah said Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston and other providers, including St. Mary Regional Medical Center in Lewiston and local pharmacies, have been providing vaccines. 

The Maine CDC is working on getting more vaccine sites in underserved areas, including Lewiston and Western Maine, Shah said.

“The large-scale site at the Auburn Mall opening Wednesday will certainly help,” Shah said. That clinic will be run by Central Maine Healthcare.

“We also recognize Androscoggin is a large county,” Shah said. “It’s a diverse county. There are different needs there. We’re investigating other sites across the county as well as looking and thinking about ways to bring vaccines to areas of higher need, particularly in the Lewiston area.”

In Western Maine people lacking transportation is also a problem, Shah said, which is why the state has begun offering rides.

From her home in Poland, Martha Littlefield said she wonders if the low rate is because CMMC and St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center were slow in mobilizing mass vaccination sites. Other hospitals have had high-volume sites “up and running in days,” she said.


Littlefield said she kept checking CMMC’s webpages to book an appointment, but none were available.

Littlefield said she got her first shot Monday after finding an appointment at Rumford Hospital.

“I checked the weather, this is Maine after all, clear and dry,” she said. “So I booked a slot. It was an hour each way.” 

St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center spokesman Steve Costello said he’s disappointed that Androscoggin County’s vaccination rate for a first dose is low.

“It is concerning,” he said. “We are a large population.” The Lewiston-Auburn region has “been a little slow to have a mass vaccination site open. Portland and Bangor had them earlier than us.”

St. Mary’s has administered every dose received from the state, Costello said. His hospital discussed opening a mass vaccination site with the cities.


“CMMC has been taking the lead in our area,” he said. They settled on beginning a large clinic at the Auburn Mall on Wednesday. 

Help is on the way, a Central Maine Healthcare official said.

Central Maine Healthcare’s three hospital-based clinics in Lewiston, Rumford and Bridgton have administered more than 18,600 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, Amy E. Lee, chief operating officer of the Central Maine Medical Group at Central Maine Healthcare.

Those vaccines have been not only for Androscoggin County residents but for people around the state, Lee said.

“We are excited that our high-volume vaccination site at the Auburn Mall will open in just a few days,” she said in a statement. “Along with our partners, we will have the opportunity to get vaccine into the arms of more Maine residents, improving the percentage of vaccinated Androscoggin County residents, and ensuring our efforts reach all community members.”

Once the Auburn Mall clinic ramps up, Lee said an expected 1,000 or more people will be vaccinated a day as supplies allow.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. 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.