REGION — Approximately 19% of Maine’s population has received the final dose for the coronavirus vaccine with the state currently administering vaccines to individuals 50 and older as well as school staff and childcare workers. There are exceptions to who may receive a vaccine however, if there are leftover doses in a vial at the end of the day.

The two-shot Pfizer vaccine comes in a six-dose vial and Moderna, also a multi-dose vaccine, comes in ten-dose vials. The single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine comes in five-dose vials. All three vaccines have a six-hour window once the vial has been punctured. To prevent any doses going to waste, Maine has established an exception to its phased, age and occupation-based vaccination policy.

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“The State is committed to putting every dose of the COVID-19 vaccine into the arms of residents, even if that means occasional deviations from the State’s phases,” the Maine Full Use Protocol sheet states.

The protocol requires vaccination sites to first prioritize unused doses for individuals within the current phase but then allows sites to administer doses to on-site staff and volunteers in oldest age order. Vaccination sites may also contact individuals from an emergency list who may be able to make a last-minute appointment.

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In the case of Walgreens, pharmacists reach out to community members if all on-site staff have already been offered the vaccine.

“Walgreens is committed to ensuring every dose of COVID-19 vaccine is used. At this time, demand for vaccines outweighs supply, so excess doses are rare,” a Walgreens corporate spokesperson wrote in an email. “If there are available doses at the end of the day, our pharmacists are embedded in their communities and proactively reach out to eligible customers to offer the vaccine. We send email notifications to customers who sign up to receive alerts about available vaccine appointments based on the area code provided when they sign up and their proximity to store locations with incoming doses.”

Pharmacy customers receive these notifications by creating an account at https://www.walgreens.com/login.jsp?ru=/register/mywag/covidvaccine/updates.

Walgreens is offering all three brands of the coronavirus vaccine at various locations, but did not disclose which vaccine is available in Farmington. Customers are not able to choose which vaccine is to be administered.

Walmart, which is now administering the Moderna vaccine at the Farmington location, is also following the state’s guidance to avoid any dose waste.

“In the event additional doses from an opened vial are available and there are no scheduled appointments, we turn to individuals, including our associates, who fall within that priority to administer the remaining doses. If no one is available in that priority, where states allow, we move to the next priority,” Walmart Corporate Affairs Spokesperson Courtney Paulson wrote in an email.

Franklin Memorial Hospital (FMH) in Farmington is administering the Moderna vaccine and as of March 25, has administered 11,566 shots. The hospital is averaging 400 shots a day with the intent to increase to 450.

To avoid waste, the hospital contacts patients scheduled the following day for an early appointment when a vial contains leftover doses.

“We have a process in place to avoid wasting vaccines that works very well. At the end of the day we look at doses left, and how many more patients we expect to see. If we have an extra dose or 2 we will call individuals with an appointment for the following week to see if they can come in that day,” FMH Communications & Public Affairs Spokesperson Jill Gray said in an email.

The hospital has seen an increase in patients missing their appointments and is advising patients to call 877-780-7545 to cancel their time slot. Patients can also be removed from the waitlist by visiting https://vaccine.mainehealth.org/leave-waitlist.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services has also launched a free transportation system for vaccination appointments. A ride may be scheduled by calling 1-855-608-5172 at least 48 hours prior to the appointment. The service is available Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. – 4 p.m.

 

 

 

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