Danielle Libby, 17, of Windham exits the Auburn Mall COVID-19 vaccination site with her mother, Liza, after receiving her vaccine. Liza was pleased to be able to bring her daughter to the site. “It’s one of the few places that it’s easy to bring an under 18 for their shot.” Liza said. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

AUBURN — The good news is a majority of residents in Androscoggin County — though a very slim 50.33 percent — has had at least one COVID-19 vaccine.

Still, Androscoggin County continues to have the highest COVID-19 rate in the state, and the numbers continue to climb while vaccination rates lag the state average.

“We need to get more people vaccinated if we’re going to get out of this,” said Dr. John Alexander, chief medical officer of Central Maine Healthcare.

At the region’s only mass vaccine clinic at the Auburn Mall, there is demand for appointments, said Amy Lee, Chief Operating Officer of Central Maine Medical Group.

But for the first time in weeks the Auburn Mall received less weekly supply of vaccine from the state, 2,340 first-doses instead of 3,510 first-dose shots.

The reason for less, Lee said, is supply and a softer demand.

“As the state continues to create additional access points for vaccinations, they are balancing their vaccine supply among all of the clinics,” Lee said. “This week we are administering 2,340 first doses, and 3,510 booster shots for a total of 5,850 doses this week.”

Throughout Maine and the nation, experts have said those most eager to get vaccinated have done so, and now those left are people who are less enthused or hesitant.

When asked if Androscoggin residents’ demand to be vaccinated is down, Lee said there is demand, “though some appointments are unfilled. We have been able to accommodate some walk-in patients, and are planning for a formal launch of a walk-in model.”

Statewide, as demand softens, mass clinics are offering walk-in appointments. “Other clinics, meanwhile, have reached out to us to see if we can accommodate their patients as they wind down their vaccine clinic operations,” Lee said.

Since the Auburn Mall clinic opened nearly two months ago, 25,000 first- and second-shots have gone into arms, according to Central Maine Health Care.

In his bi-weekly COVID-19 press briefing Tuesday, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said the Auburn Mall site is getting the amount of supply that the clinic has requested.

“We are allocating to them exactly what they’ve asked for. We are taking our cues around what the need is in Androscoggin County based on what their request is,” Shah said.

Last week the Auburn Mall requested three trays, or 3,510 first doses, of Pfizer; this week they requested two trays, or 2,340 first doses, Shah said. “That’s precisely what we allocated them.”

Shah said the Maine CDC is concerned about lagging vaccination rates in Androscoggin County, as well as Oxford, Franklin and Somerset counties.

He also said that no-show appointments have increased recently at the mobile clinics.

“We’ve got more work to do there. What’s also important to note, he added, is that while the Auburn Mall is an excellent site to get a shot, it’s not the only spot.

Vaccines are and have been available at retail pharmacies in Lisbon, Livermore Falls and all over, he said, as well as the FEMA mobile clinic which begins offering no-appointment shots for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

“We’re not stopping there,” Shah said. The Maine CDC is trying to find ways of getting vaccinations “closer to people who need them. … We’re trying to see if there are more direct ways we can bring vaccines to folks in the downtown” neighborhoods of Lewiston.

Central Maine Healthcare’s Lee also said her health care providers “are working to reach New Mainers, including through a cultural broker, to arrange appointments or walk-ins.”

A sign posted Tuesday at the Auburn Mall vaccine clinic says they are offering the Pfizer vaccine and health care staff have administered 25,327 vaccine shots so far. Sun Journal photo

COMBATING VACCINE HESITANCY

Dr. Alexander of Central Maine Healthcare said Tuesday hospitalization numbers at Central Maine Medical Center have not gone down.

The hospital continues to have a daily average of between 17 to 23 COVID-19 inpatients who range in age from their 30s to 80s. About a third are critically ill. “Unfortunately we’ve seen a few deaths as well.”

What the hospital used to see with very sick elderly COVID-19 patients, “we’re seeing with younger people,” Alexander said.

Like Shah, Alexander is concerned that more people in Androscoggin County haven’t been vaccinated. The solution, he said, is to continue to share the message “about what the seriousness of this illness really is across the age range.”

When asked if people are not taking the virus seriously enough, Alexander said he assumes it’s a lack of understanding.

In CMHC’s clinics and hospitals, providers are sharing with patients “that this is a serious situation. We still need people to use all the cautions they’ve been told about,” social distancing, masking up inside and getting the vaccination.

To fight vaccine hesitancy, health care workers are providing more information to patients during all visits about why getting a shot protects them and those they love, Alexander said.

“We’ve recently shifted our focus to have team members talk about their vaccination and experiences so it opens up a dialogue.”

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. 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.