The federal government plans to more than double the number of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses shipped to Maine next week, increasing the number available for clinics to administer even as demand for vaccinations has declined in some parts of the state.

Maine will receive 52,660 doses overall, including 21,060 from Pfizer and 31,600 from Moderna. The total represents an increase of 16,200 from the 36,640 received this week.

“We are getting a high volume of Moderna next week and that’s a great thing. This is going to be a big week for vaccinations in Maine,” said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in a media briefing Thursday.

Clinics run by public safety groups, independent pharmacies and a mobile vaccination unit will receive thousands of additional doses, and more will be sent to hospitals. Shah said that will in turn increase flexibility for clinics, allowing them to offer later and earlier hours and walk-up vaccinations, and allowing more doses to be sent to other areas of the state, making it more convenient for residents to get vaccinated.

The 52,660 doses doesn’t include those the federal government will ship to retail pharmacies such as Walgreens, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Hannaford and Shaw’s, or directly to community health clinics. In recent weeks, Maine pharmacies and community health clinics have typically received 14,000 to 17,000 doses per week.

The increase in supply will help alleviate shortages that resulted when federal regulators temporarily stopped administering the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine following reports of extremely rare blood clots in a small number of people who have received it.

The federal government may lift the moratorium as soon as Friday, but it’s unclear when shipments of the J&J vaccine would resume.

Shah said the overall increase in doses will increase opportunities to offer “walk-up” vaccinations without an appointment, expand the number of “pop-up clinics” in harder-to-reach communities, and support the state’s mobile vaccination unit, which was in Windham through Thursday.

Shah said the mobile unit was originally set up to give 250 shots per day, but delivered 500 Wednesday. He said he expects the increase in supply will enable the mobile unit to deliver about 500 shots per day moving forward, including to walk-ups.

The mobile site is a partnership between the state and Federal Emergency Management Agency, and will travel to Biddeford next week with 3,200 Moderna doses, followed by Fryeburg, Turner and Waterville and other locations through mid-June.

A sign indicates masks are required inside Reny’s department store on Congress Street in Portland. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Northeast Mobile Health Services in Scarborough will get 2,000 doses next week, Buxton Fire and Rescue will get 1,000 doses, Fairfield Pharmacy, 1,000 doses and Westbrook Public Safety, 800 doses.

Information about vaccination sites and appointments can be found on the Maine CDC vaccination website.

The U.S. CDC website shows Maine only set to receive 15,400 Moderna doses next week. Shah said he doesn’t know why there’s a discrepancy, but that the 31,600 number is correct.

Shah said while there are concerns about lagging demand for the vaccine in some areas, overall demand remains strong. Maine is trying to boost demand by emphasizing the convenience of walk-in sites to improve convenience and doing more public education for those still nervous about receiving a dose, he said.

“Even though some states have seen demand fall off a cliff, we have not seen that in Maine,” Shah said.

Besides the temporary halt in administering the J&J vaccine, reduced demand may play a part in why Maine has seen a decline in the seven-day average of daily doses administered. The high point for the seven-day average was 18,200, before the J&J vaccine was paused on April 12. After J&J doses were halted, the seven-day average went from 14,611 doses a week ago to 12,565 on Thursday.

Meanwhile, state health officials reported 403 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday and one additional death.

New cases topped 400 for the third day in a row and hospitalizations have increased more than 60 percent since April 1. The recent surge in infections, combined with declining demand for vaccinations in some areas, is prompting state health officials to explore ways to increase access to vaccination clinics.

Maine ranked as high as sixth nationally this week for its rate of new cases per 100,000 residents. Yet Maine also has the nation’s highest percentage of fully vaccinated individuals, underscoring both progress made since inoculations began in mid-December and ongoing challenges as the virus surges among the unvaccinated in pockets of the state.

The seven-day average of new cases stood at 423 on Thursday, down slightly from last Thursday but more than double the rolling average from four weeks ago. The average age of new cases has also been trending lower due in part to the high number of older Mainers who have been fully vaccinated, but also to the more rapid spread among residents under age 30.

Among the 403 new cases reported Thursday, 185 – 46 percent – were people under age 30. Those 60 or older accounted for 51 cases, or 13 percent.

Statewide, there were 119 people hospitalized with COVID-19 on Thursday, an increase of nine since Wednesday and a jump of 61 percent since April 1. Among those hospitalized, 48 were in critical care beds – also an increase of nine in 24 hours – and there were 18 people connected to ventilators.

Health care providers had administered at least one shot to 43.7 percent of Maine’s population as of Wednesday night and had completed vaccinations for 33.8 percent of the state’s 1.3 million residents. Those figures rise to 52.2 percent and 40.3 percent, respectively, when narrowing the population to those over age 16, who are currently eligible for vaccination.

To date, the Maine CDC has tracked 58,868 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 since the coronavirus was first detected in the state in March 2020. The one additional death reported on Thursday increased the total deaths in Maine linked to COVID-19 to 769, with the vast majority of those occurring within people age 60 or older.

 

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