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CDC Urges Patience As Maine Health Care Workers Get 2nd Vaccine Doses

Patty Wight
Maine Public
Ron Emond (left) gets a 2nd dose of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19.

This week, frontline hospital staff who were the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine are getting their second doses.

So far, more than half of the roughly 80,000 doses Maine has received to date have been administered. Health officials say they’re eager to ramp up but are constrained by supplies.

Dr. Claudia Geyer was one of the first to get the COVID-19 vaccine at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston when doses first arrived last month. After the chief of hospital medicine received her second dose on Wednesday morning, she told reporters that she hadn’t experienced any side effects - except for one.

“No. Like, the first one, joy was a side effect,” she said.

Hospitals across the state are administering the second round of doses this week, 21 days after staff received their first shots. Both MaineHealth and Northern Light Health say they’ve vaccinated more than half of all of their employees. Dr. James Jarvis of Northern Light Health says that’s good progress.

“There’s been lots of concern how this rollout has gone, but as we look at the chaos other states have had, we know that we are doing it in the right fashion here in Maine. It is both sound and systematic,” he says.

There have been questions in Maine and across the U.S. about the pace of the rollout. Maine is roughly a third of the way through Phase 1A, which includes all health care personnel as well as residents of long term care facilities. That’s about 130,000 people.

State CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah says it will likely take the entire month of January to move through this first phase.

“We know that it’s not happening at the pace that any of us wanted in Maine or across the country,” he says.

With phase 1B potentially a few weeks away, Shah was asked during a news briefing Wednesday who would be prioritized in that group. It’s about 200,000 people, and includes essential workers and Mainers age 75 and up.

Shah says he hasn’t been able to make a final decision due to the limited number of doses Maine is receiving and the lack of insight about future allotments.

“We’ve got a group of around 200,000 and a supply for the immediate future of around 17,000 per week. We can’t just say, ‘Doors are open for everybody, line up where you want. Sleep in your cars if you want to.’ It’s not how we do business,” he says.

With so much uncertainty about the stream of doses, Shah is urging patience. Ultimately, he says, people will find out their place in line through multiple channels, such as employers or doctors.

The state is also developing a website where people can sign up to receive the vaccine, akin to a restaurant reservation. But Shah says that will not happen until widespread vaccination is possible.

Originally published 11:30 a.m. Jan. 6, 2020.