LEWISTON — One pharmaceutical representative compared COVID-19 to a wildfire roaring across the world.  

Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah bemoaned Androscoggin County’s low percent vaccination rate and declared that more work needs to be done to combat vaccine hesitancy. 

Meanwhile, nearly three dozen people strolled in to get vaccinated after the Maine DHHS and Promerica Health set up a mobile COVID-19 clinic in a parking lot along Oak Street in Lewiston. 

The site was set up around noon. By 2 p.m., roughly 30 people had come in to get a dose of the free Moderna vaccine, according to Ryan Jennings, vice president of client engagement at Promerica Health. Another 20 showed up before the clinic was closed at 5 p.m.

With at least a half dozen National Guard troops gathered around the cluster of blue tents in the Oak Street parking lot, Promerica CEO Steve Woods addressed the small crowd and extolled the virtues of the vaccine. 

Whether or not to be vaccinated should be an individual choice, Woods said. But with the pandemic raging on unabated, his hope is that by making the vaccine easily accessible to everyone, more people will choose to take it. 

“This is something we all feel passionate about,” Woods said. 

Dr. Shah pointed out that, while Maine has the highest vaccination rate in the nation — by Friday, roughly 50 percent of Mainers had received their first shot of the vaccine — the numbers are significantly lower, around 44 percent, in Androscoggin County. 

Choosing Lewiston as a mobile site, Shah said, will hopefully help to improve those numbers by making vaccines easily accessible to people who have to work around their job schedules. 

“It speaks to our need, our desire, to meet people where they are,” Shah said. “COVID-19 vaccination is safe, effective and free. It’s more important than ever that Maine people roll up their sleeves to help our state keep moving in the right direction. I urge anyone who wants a vaccine in Lewiston to book an appointment or drop by.” 

Appointments can be made at VaccinateME.Maine.gov.

Lewiston City Administrator Denis D’Auteuil called the clinic turnout “a step in the right direction.”

No appointment was necessary for the drop-in clinic and insurance was not required. According to Jennings, the registration process for each patient took about five minutes. 

The clinic will remain in Lewiston over the next week with the schedule as follows:

May 10: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

May 11: 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.

May 12: 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

May 13: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

May 14: 7 a.m. to 12 p.m.

The clinic has capacity to provide approximately 1,000 vaccinations during its time in Lewiston. After concluding in Lewiston next week, the clinic will travel to additional sites in Androscoggin County and western Maine before looping back to provide second doses, starting again in Lewiston..

Walk-in appointments are also going to be available at Central Maine Healthcare’s Auburn Mall new mass vaccination site. CMHC announced Thursday that it would begin accepting walk-in appointments the following day in addition to scheduled appointments.

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