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Vaccination Updates: Maine Opens High-Volume Sites, Hannaford To Get Johnson & Johnson Shots

Gregory Rec
Pool/Portland Press Herald
Chuck Rich of Waterboro is vaccinated by David Garriepy at a MaineHealth vaccination clinic in Sanford on Tuesday, March 2, 2021.

Several new options for getting the COVID-19 vaccine are opening up in Maine this week.

Two high-volume vaccination sites have opened in southern Maine and nearly three-dozen Hannaford pharmacies will begin administering doses as well. These new points of access come during a week in which eligibility expands to people 60 and older.

Both high-volume clinics opened Tuesday — one at the Portland Expo, the other in the former Marshalls building on Main Street in Sanford — both are expected to ultimately administer 1,000 shots a day. That’s a needed boost for York County, where vaccination numbers have been lagging, says Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew.

At a news briefing Tuesday, Lambrew also said that the Portland Expo is easily accessible, especially for minority populations.

“Northern Light Health has engaged with cultural brokers to make it welcoming and accessible to new Mainers,” she said.

An additional high-volume clinic is expected to open March 17 this month in the Auburn Mall — the first in Androscoggin County. The clinic is being launched by Central Maine Healthcare, the state of Maine and the cities of Lewiston and Auburn.

In the meantime, 35 Hannaford pharmacies will begin offering the COVID-19 vaccine across the state this week. The company is receiving 3,500 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine directly from the federal government under a retail pharmacy program.

This is the first week that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is available after receiving emergency authorization. Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine performs well against COVID-19 and emerging variants.

“The best vaccine that you can take is the one that’s closest to your arm. If that happens to be a Pfizer or Moderna product, great. If it happens to be the J&J product, great. We are in a pandemic right now, and we are racing to vaccinate as many people as we can across the state and across the country,” he said.

Beginning Wednesday, people 60 and older in Maine are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. It’s part of a new age-based strategy announced last week by Gov. Janet Mills.

The state is also working to set up specific times for school staff who are age-eligible to get doses at existing clinics to ensure they can get vaccinated quickly. Details are expected later this week.