AUBURN — Steve Damien of Auburn and Lynn Cummings of Lewiston became local celebrities Wednesday when they were the first to receive COVID-19 vaccines on opening day of the Auburn Mall  clinic.

The first shots followed a news briefing by local leaders complete with a ribbon-cutting celebration.

With cameras pointed at him, Damien was first. Central Maine Medical Center nurse Jen Jordan prepared Damien’s arm and asked: “Ready?”

“Oh yeah!” he said.

teve Damien of Auburn receives his COVID-19 vaccination Wednesday from registered nurse Jennifer Jordan at the Auburn Mall. Damien was the first person to receive a shot at the region’s first mass vaccination site. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The needle went in. Cameras clicked.

“That’s it,” Jordan said. Damien, 66, a Lewiston Public Works employee, grinned.


His first shot of the Moderna vaccine means “the beginning of the end,” Damien said. “We’re going to be able to be much closer to more people in the future. I’ve been very careful. I wear a mask. I don’t want to give it to anybody and I don’t want them giving it to me. We haven’t gone out much, haven’t been on vacation for a long time. I’m looking forward to that.”

He chuckled about being the first to get vaccinated at the clinic and the media coverage. “The guys at work will probably ride me a little,” he said. “I’m happy.”

Lynn Cummings of Lewiston receives her COVID-19 vaccination Wednesday from licensed practical nurse Morgan Willey at the Auburn Mall. Cummings was the second person to get a shot at the clinic Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Lynn Cummings, 61, who received the second shot of the day, said she feels “good! I’m so excited. You get this feeling of relief that life will be more normal. The things we miss the most are music jam sessions.”

Cummings, who is Irish and was decked out in everything shamrocks and green for St. Patrick’s Day, plays the bodhran — Irish drums.

“We loved to get together and play music. We miss that a lot,” she said.

She has continued to attend her Irish dancing classes, wearing masks and social distancing. She’s missed traditional celebrations.


Before Wednesday’s vaccinations began, local leaders spoke about the significance of the high-volume clinic.

“Central Maine Healthcare, together with our partners, is celebrating the first and only high-volume COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Androscoggin County,” said Steven Littleson, senior vice president of CMHC and president of CMMC. “And for that, can I get a rousing, grateful, optimistic, there-are-brighter-days-ahead for our L-A community round of applause?”

Central Maine Medical Center President Steve Littleson applauds Wednesday as he announces the opening of the Lewiston-Auburn region’s first COVID-19 vaccination site at the Auburn Mall. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Littleson got it.

Dr. John Alexander, the chief medical officer at Central Maine Healthcare who’s overseen COVID-19 treatment, education and the vaccine rollout, spoke about what health care workers and the community have been through.

“Wow, it’s been a long year,” he said.

It was one week and one year ago, March 10, 2020, when a person with COVID symptoms “walked through Central Maine Medical Center’s emergency department,” Alexander said. “The individual had traveled from Italy.” With COVID in the news, “we all knew what was going to happen,” Alexander said. “On March 12 that person became the first COVID case in Maine. After that, the world shut down.”


Since then, there have been 5,000 cases in Androscoggin County. “Sadly more than 160 required hospitalization and 57 died,” Alexander said. That left heavy hearts, he said.

In December the Pfzier and Moderna vaccines were approved. “That really gave us hope,” Alexander said. “Since that time in Androscoggin County, there’s been more than 32,000 doses of vaccine administered; there are 12,500 individuals now in Androscoggin County fully vaccinated.”

Lynn Cummings, left, of Lewiston shows her friend Renee Arbisi of Biddeford her COVID-19 vaccination card Wednesday after Cummings received her shot at the Auburn Mall. Cummings was the second person to receive a shot at the region’s first mass vaccination site. “I came purely for moral support,” Arbisi said. “We try to get together once a month and this happens to be it,” Cummings said. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

When considering the number of Androscoggin County residents who have had their first dose of the vaccine and others who have had the virus, it means that 22% of the county’s population have some level of immunity, the doctor said.

“That gives us reason for hope,” he said.

Alexander acknowledged that it will be a challenge to get shots to those who are marginalized or live in remote corners of Androscoggin and neighboring counties. But officials hope that with mall clinic vaccinating up to 4,000 people a week, “that means by July 1 we’ll have vaccinated 60,000 individuals through this site,” he said. “That’s remarkable.”

The doctor assigned homework for the public: Continue to wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands.

“And make sure when you have an opportunity to get that vaccine, get the vaccine.”

Other speakers included Jeffrey Brickman, president and CEO of CMHC, Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque, Lewiston Mayor Mark Cayer, and Amy Lee, vice president and chief operating officer of Central Maine Medical Group.

The two cities, St. Mary’s Regional Health Care, Healthy Androscoggin, the Maine National Guard, and mall owner George Schott have all been involved in establishing the mall clinic.

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