Maine is gearing up for another rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, this time for children ages five to 11.

As Mainers waited for election returns Tuesday night, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced its recommendation that children 5 to 11 years old be vaccinated against the virus. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave emergency use authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for that age group last week.

In preparation for the recommendation, the first doses of the vaccine began arriving in Maine Tuesday, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said. It is the same Pfizer vaccine used in children ages 12 to 17 and adults 18-plus, but only one-third of the dosage.

More than 50,000 doses are expected within the next week, meaning that about half of Maine’s pediatric population could receive their first of two doses very soon.


Teagan Durgin, 6, waits for her first grade teacher, Kim Guay, to check her work Oct. 27 at Sherwood Heights Elementary School in Auburn. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

At a media briefing Wednesday, Shah and Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said the state is working with schools and health care providers to roll out the vaccine. Information will be posted to maine.gov/covid19/vaccines/vaccination-sites as it becomes available.

There are plans in the works to connect schools with vaccine providers to host on-site clinics, provide education to children and parents on the vaccines and support school nursing staff.

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Some of the on-site clinics may be open to the community if schools have the interest and capacity to do so, Lambrew said.

“You’ll begin to see those pop up both from the school officials as they send that information out (and) some of those will be posted on our vaccine website,” Lambrew said. Schools should also be communicating directly with parents and students.

“We also have been working with them on education all along so we will be accelerating that work in the coming weeks.”

Lewiston Public Schools Superintendent Jake Langlais said at a School Committee on Monday night that the district is waiting on more information from providers but it is likely clinics would be coordinated through the Central Maine Healthcare-run Auburn Mall vaccination site.

Appointments at the Auburn Mall site should be available in the coming days, Amy Lee, Central Maine Medical Group vice president and chief operating officer, said in a statement Wednesday.

Shah urged parents to get their children vaccinated. In Maine, one out of every 11 children ages 5 to 11 have contracted COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, he said.

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The clinical trials proved that the vaccines were 90% effective in the nearly 4,700 children enrolled.

Shah said he’s heard some parents’ concerns that potential side effects from the vaccine could put their child’s health at risk, particularly with myocarditis, which is an inflammation of the heart muscle.

That’s exceedingly rare, though, Shah said, and there were no cases of myocarditis in the clinical trials. Nationally, out of the 86 million doses administered to people under the age of 30, the U.S. CDC has tracked 877 reported cases of myocarditis, Shah said. A separate study found that none of these individuals died as a result and the majority, over 90% of them, made a fully recovery in a few days.

On the other hand, a COVID infection puts children at a 15 times more risk of developing myocarditis. The clinical trial found that children react similarly as adults do to the vaccine and that the most common side effect was a sore arm.

“To me, it’s clear. The greater risk right now is from the virus, not the vaccine,” Shah said.

Meanwhile, the Maine CDC reported 660 new cases of COVID-19 statewide Wednesday, including 52 in Androscoggin County, 26 in Franklin County and 63 in Oxford County.

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There were 14 additional deaths, four of whom were residents of Androscoggin County and two of whom were residents of Franklin County.

Of the 14 deaths reported Wednesday, 11 were the result of the Maine CDC’s regular review of death certificates and occurred between Oct. 17 and 25.

Outbreaks of COVID-19 among residents and staff continue to impact two long-term health care facilities in the region.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 18 residents and eight staff of Clover Healthcare in Auburn had tested positive for the virus since mid-October, spokesperson Sarah O’Sullivan said. All of the individuals were vaccinated and experiencing mild symptoms. There have been no deaths.

O’Sullivan said it is not clear how the virus entered the home. The outbreak was first discovered with two asymptomatic residents went to the hospital for separate, unrelated incidents and were tested for COVID.

The outbreak at Rumford Community Home, an 84-bed skilled nursing and assisted living facility in Oxford County, has grown to 70 cases, 55 of which are among residents. Ten residents have died as a result.

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“We are exercising extreme vigilance, taking every precaution possible to protect our residents and the team members entrusted with their care,” Central Maine Healthcare’s long-term care division president, Peter Wright, said Wednesday in a prepared statement.

CMH officials said that a DHHS investigation last week found “no concerns or deficiencies around infection prevention or management of the outbreak.”

It is not clear how many residents and staff were fully vaccinated when they tested positive. According to a post on Rumford Community Home’s Facebook page, it appears that the first case related to this outbreak, the first for the facility, was on Oct. 7, when a staff member tested positive.

Twice-weekly testing of residents and staff will continue until there are no new cases for 14 days, officials said.

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