The first doses of updated COVID-19 vaccines are arriving in Maine, although supplies are limited and will increase next week, the state’s top health official said Thursday.

Dr. Puthiery Va, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Photo courtesy of Maine Department of Health and Human Services

Public health experts say they are anticipating a “moderate” level of coronavirus to circulate nationwide this fall and winter. Infection rates are not expected to surge as they did in previous peaks, such as in early 2022 when waves of illness overwhelmed hospitals in Maine.

“We are no longer in an emergency phase,” Dr. Puthiery Va, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a news conference Thursday. “We are indeed in a better place.”

But Va said that even though conditions are better compared to the first two years of the pandemic, everyone who is eligible should get the updated COVID-19 shot. Federal regulators earlier this week approved the vaccine – which is formulated to protect against circulating variants of the coronavirus – for everyone age 6 months and older, and supplies are starting to show up at pharmacies and health care providers across the nation, including in Maine.

Va said while some supplies are coming in, she expects a higher volume of shots available starting next week. The approved vaccines, made by Pfizer and Moderna, are designed to combat the XBB.1.5 strain and other similar subvariants of the coronavirus. Another vaccine made by Novavax is going to regulators for approval later this fall.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its projections for respiratory diseases for the fall and winter on Thursday, predicting that hospitalizations would be similar to the 2022-23 season.


“There is widespread, population-level protective immunity to COVID-19 from prior infections and/or vaccinations, making it unlikely that COVID-19 will cause very large waves of severe disease or hospitalization,” the CDC projection said. Influenza will fall into a range of “typical” severity for this winter, and RSV, after experiencing a surge last winter, is expected to return to “normal season patterns” this winter, according to the U.S. CDC.

Maine, like other parts of the country, has experienced an uptick in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations since mid-August. But the numbers remain relatively low compared to past surges. There were 54 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide on Tuesday – the latest data available – compared to a peak of 436 patients in January 2022.

Va said vaccines, including for COVID-19, influenza, and RSV, offer great protection for people. The RSV vaccine is recommended for those 60 and older and pregnant women. The COVID-19 vaccine and influenza vaccine can be given during the same appointment, while the RSV vaccine can be administered during a separate appointment.

“It’s really important we get the vaccine,” Va said. “They protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and death.”

Maine has had one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the nation, with about 80% of Maine people getting vaccinated and receiving at least one booster, according to data through April 2023, which is when the state stopped tracking COVID-19 vaccination rates.

Walgreens, CVS and other national pharmacies are reporting that COVID-19 vaccine supplies had already arrived Thursday and some appointments are available through their websites. More supplies are expected to arrive next week, opening up more opportunities to get immunized.

Community Pharmacies had not received shipments of the updated COVID-19 vaccine yet, but supplies are expected to arrive soon, said Amelia Arnold, pharmacy operations manager for the Maine-based chain, including locations in Gorham and Saco.

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