LEWISTON — It was near noon on Thursday when a 9-year-old boy and his older sister walked into the COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Connors Elementary School.

Both admitted to the nurses they were nervous about getting the shot, but Maine Center for Disease Control public health nurse Brooke Payne assured the children they would be with them every step of the way.

“It doesn’t even hurt!” the boy exclaimed after receiving the first dose of the vaccine. Soon, he was showing off his Band-Aid to other people in the room.

The Lewiston school district is hosting a series of vaccine clinics in partnership with the CDC on Thursday and Friday. The primary focus is to vaccinate newly eligible 5- to 11-year-olds, however staff, parents and community members are also welcome to walk in and get the initial vaccine or booster shot, both of which are free.

Parents must fill out a consent form to allow their children to be vaccinated. Students will not be vaccinated without permission from parents.

Thursday afternoon, Superintendent Jake Langlais said the district had received more than 200 permission forms in advance, with additional paper forms were brought in day-of.

Clinics were set up at Connors, Geiger, and McMahon elementary schools, along with Longley and Hillview community centers on Thursday. Longley and Hillview will again host vaccine clinics on Friday, as well as Farwell and Montello elementary schools and Lewiston High School.

Longley is hosting a drive-through clinic so quarantined students can also receive the vaccine. Parents and their children were able to remain in their cars from start to finish.

Justin Libby and Tiffanee Jones brought their 7-year-old son Jaxson Libbey to the Longley vaccine clinic Thursday morning. Jaxson, who is a second-grader at the Margaret Murphy Center, once had to quarantine for 10 days because he was identified as a close contact.

“We wanted to get him vaccinated to be on the safe side,” Jones said. “That way, we don’t have to worry about it.”

According to Maine Department of Education guidelines, fully vaccinated students do not have to quarantine, even if they are a close contact, unless they show symptoms of COVID-19. Due to the vaccine, schools have seen a significant decrease in the number of staff, middle schoolers and high schoolers who have needed to quarantine this fall. Quarantine rates remained high, however, for elementary school students who were unable to get the vaccine.

Maine children began receiving the vaccine Nov. 3 after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, who receive just one-third of the dose given to adults and teenagers.

As of Wednesday, 16.8% of elementary school children statewide have received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, according to the CDC dashboard. However, Androscoggin County lags behind the state average with just 6.5% of elementary age students having received their first dose. Androscoggin County has the fifth lowest rate of initial doses administered out of Maine’s 16 counties.

Nurses at both the Longley and Connors clinics said they saw a steady stream of people in the mornings, which slowed around noon.

“We’re seeing a lot of parents right now who have been anticipating the vaccine and have been waiting for it and are excited about it, for sure,” CDC nurse Celia Demos said.

Parents should check their email for the link to the electronic permission form to sign their children up, however paper forms will also be available at each clinic.

School staff and community members also received booster shots Thursday, including Langlais who got his at Connors on Thursday morning. Afterward, he visited each Lewiston school to drop off a cheesecake made by students from the Green Ladle as a thank you to front office staff and nurses.

Previously, Langlais wrote a letter to the school community urging students and staff to get vaccinated after the district saw a surge of COVID-19 cases, which ultimately resulted in Lewiston Middle School moving to remote learning for a week.

“I encourage all students, staff and others to get vaccinated as part of the strategy to stay in school in-person,” Langlais wrote on Nov. 8. “We know that there are mitigation strategies that help fight the pandemic. This is the opportunity so many have been waiting for.”

The vaccine clinics will return on Dec. 9-10 to distribute the second shot of the two-dose vaccine. Participating children will be fully vaccinated by Christmas Eve.

Friday COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics

Connors Elementary School, 8:05 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. and 4-7 p.m.

Farwell Elementary School, 8:40 a.m. – 3:10 p.m.

Montello Elementary School, 8:05 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Lewiston High School, 7:45 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Hillview Community Center, 4-7 p.m.

Longley Community Center, 8:05 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. and 4-7 p.m.

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