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Dr. Shah: Vaccinations Not Cause Of Recent COVID-19 Case Declines

Willis Ryder Arnold
Maine Public
Signs on Willard Beach in South Portland on Thursday, Feb. 11.

Maine public health officials say vaccinations likely aren’t likely a major cause of recent declines in COVID-19 cases in Maine — but they could be playing a role in reducing outbreaks at long-term care facilities.

In a briefing on Thursday, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said experts have suggested 30%-40% of people must be vaccinated before cases would start to decline, which is far above current levels. But Shah said it’s plausible that vaccinations could be having an effect in Maine’s skilled nursing facilities.

“Where we started our vaccination efforts. There’s probably a straighter line between the vaccination rates there, and the reduction in the number of outbreaks. They haven’t made outbreaks go away. But they have gone down, and that is a welcome sign. It speaks to the power and promise of these vaccines,” he said.

Maine is expected to receive almost 28,000 first doses of vaccine next week — an increase of more than 3,500 doses from this week.

“This increase of 3,510 new doses is welcome, and we are thankful for it. Rest assured, we will work to get each and every one of those into someone’s arm as quickly as possible,” Shah said.

Shah said the agency is also planning to move 3,900 unused vaccine doses from a CVS warehouse to the state’s general pool on Saturday. The agency says the doses weren’t immediately scheduled to be administered by CVS, and can be moved to another site to be administered faster.

Nearly 266,000 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Maine, with more than 80,000 Mainers receiving both doses in the full course.

More than 43,000 cases of COVID-19 have been identified in the state since the pandemic began. That includes 218 new cases reported by the Maine CDC Thursday morning, after a couple days in which new case numbers hovered around 100.

One more person with the disease has died.

Gov. Janet Mills intends to salute residents and businesses fighting to slow the pandemic in her upcoming State of the Budget address, scheduled for Feb. 23.

This story was originally published at 8:33 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021.