REGION — In an effort to maintain the momentum of vaccinating communities against COVID-19, MaineHealth today announced it will be offering new scheduling options at clinics across its service area, including the ability to schedule an appointment at the time of registering online. Walk-in options will also soon be available at some locations.

To date, MaineHealth has administered more than 280,000 doses of vaccine against COVID-19 at 10 clinics, including locations in Belfast, Boothbay Harbor, Brunswick, Farmington, Norway, Rockland, Sanford, Scarborough, Westbrook, and North Conway, N.H. MaineHealth Care at Home is also administering vaccinations to its home health care patients across its service area.

“It is vital that we keep our momentum,” said Joan Boomsma, chief medical officer at MaineHealth. “These vaccines are both safe and highly effective, and right now in Maine, COVID is surging among the unvaccinated. For the first time, we are seeing that younger people are being impacted in greater numbers than older individuals.”.”

Because of vaccinations, far fewer people over the age of 60 are being hospitalized with COVID-19. Instead, the recent rise of cases and surge in hospitalizations is among adults in younger age cohorts.

“When you see a 30-year-old battling for their life on a ventilator, it’s a reminder of how serious a disease COVID-19 really is,” said Boomsma. She added that, in addition to getting vaccinated as soon as possible, people should continue to practice social distancing, wear a mask and practice good hand hygiene. “This is not the time to be letting up,” she said.

At this time, all adults over the age of 18 are eligible for either version of the COVID-19 vaccine and can use any of MaineHealth’s clinics. Minors, ages 16-17, are able to get only the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech and require permission from a parent or guardian. Because of these restrictions, MaineHealth is not offering vaccinations to children under 18 at all locations. Three locations, Scarborough, Westbrook and Brunswick, have current appointments for 16-17 year olds, and other locations may offer specific times for 16-17 year olds when Pfizer vaccine is available in coming days.

MaineHealth’s new on-demand scheduling option, which went into effect today, is available at www.vaccine.mainehealth.org and allows Mainers the option of scheduling an appointment immediately once they take the initial step of registering in the system. Mainers can also call 1-877-780-7545 to register and will subsequently be notified when an appointment is available. Appointments at the vaccine clinic at Memorial Hospital in North Conway, N.H., can be made through the State of New Hampshire’s central registration site, www.vaccines.nh.gov.

While MaineHealth has reduced the size of its waiting list in recent weeks, demand for appointments remains steady, and it is possible that, should demand outstrip the supply of vaccine from the state in the future, there may be a short waiting list for an appointment at some locations.

“We are seeing the supply of vaccines better match the demand for them, which is why we are opening up new options for scheduling,” said Boomsma. “We are hopeful that demand for shots will remain strong and urge everyone to get vaccinated as we work our way through these younger age groups.”

In addition to the on-demand scheduling options, a number of clinics across MaineHealth are working on creating convenient walk-in options for vaccinations. The first launched in Farmington earlier this week. Franklin Memorial Hospital is offering walk-in COVID-19 vaccine clinics Monday through Friday, the week of April 26-30, from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. to anyone aged 18 and older. Proof of residency is required by the State of Maine

“Our goal is to make getting the vaccine as easy as possible,” said Boomsma. ““It takes less than five minutes to schedule a vaccination appointment using the online self-service scheduling option. If Maine people step up and get vaccinated in coming weeks, we can finally start to put this pandemic behind us.”

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