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Health

Maine's Mobile COVID-19 Vaccination Unit Begins At Oxford Casino On Monday

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Patty Wight
/
Maine Public
Oxford Town Clerk Elizabeth Olsen outside the first stop of the state's new mobile COVID-19 vaccination unit, at Oxford Casino on April 12, 2021.

A new mobile COVID-19 vaccination unit was unveiled at Oxford Casino on Monday. It's one of 30 across the country and the second of its kind in New England that administer doses in underserved areas.

The mobile unit is a partnership between the state of Maine and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Regional Administrator Paul Ford says the unit is supported by FEMA personnel, and can administer at least 250 doses a day.

"That was the initial target when we first put them out. But today, we are, in the state of Connecticut, providing 400-plus vaccinations, which is almost double what we hoped to do," he says.

The unit is equipped to administer any vaccine, but is currently using the one shot Johnson & Johnson. That's despite a substantial reduction in the J&J vaccine supply the state received this week and likely next week.

Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew says the state does not get a special allotment for the mobile unit.

"We are worried that we may not have enough for this mobile clinic and other sites. The governor and myself are working with the federal government to make sure in the next two weeks we have sufficient doses," she says.

When asked about concerns about side effects from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that have prompted three other states to temporarily shut down clinics, Lambrew said she's confident the vaccine is safe and effective. And she says there is a monitoring system, where people are given color-coded cards based on their risk for side effects that they place on their car windshields after they get the shot.

"And we have a team of people who are standing there and observing. They walk around. They ask people to honk or flash their lights if they don't feel well. And they will dismiss you. They'll come and tell you your time is up, they'll take the card back and leave," she says.

Appointments are required at the mobile unit. But Oxford town clerk Elizabeth Olsen says it's reaching residents who aren't connected to a doctor, clinic or hospital.

"I just think it makes it easier for people in the area — my area — to find the vaccine, get connected. I've gotten a lot of phone calls at the town office from people hearing about the mobile, seeing if it's real, how do they get there, how do they get the vaccine," she says.

The mobile unit will be in Oxford through Friday, then begin a two-month tour of 10 other underserved locations. The next stop is Windham.

To make an appointment, call 1-888-445-4111.