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Health

Maine CDC Allowing Walk-Up Appointments At Mobile Vaccination Clinic

Darmita Wilson
Robert F. Bukaty
/
AP file
In this March 2, 2021, file photo, Darmita Wilson, left, takes the temperature of a volunteer arriving to help at a COVID-19 mass vaccination site at the Portland Expo in Portland, Maine.

In an effort to administer more COVID-19 shots, the Maine Center for Disease Control is adding a temporary walk-up option to its mobile clinic, currently stationed in Windham.

Maine CDC director Dr. Nirav Shah says it's still preferable to call ahead and book an appointment if you can.

"But if calling isn't an option, or your schedule is unpredictable, you can also go to the mobile vaccination unit in Windham without a prior appointment, and potentially get vaccinated," he says.

However, those with appointments will get priority, Shah says.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the mobile clinic had vaccination openings for both Wednesday and Thursday.

The mobile unit moves to Biddeford this weekend. At the moment, the state has no definite plan to allow walk-up vaccinations there.

More than 40 percent of Maine’s population has now received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

But state officials say it’s still not clear how long it will take the state to reach herd immunity. That’s the point when enough people have built up immunity from vaccinations or infections that the virus can’t spread any more. Many experts have said that coronavirus herd immunity could come when 75 to 85 percent of the population has been vaccinated.

On Tuesday, Shah stopped short of saying when or whether the state will reach that target.

“Our goal is to get every single person in Maine who wants to be vaccinated, vaccinated. If there is any state in the country that can get to that 75-to-85 percent, it’s going to be Maine. It's absolutely going to be Maine. I think we’ve got a good shot, if not the best shot, of any other state to get there," Shah said.

A vaccine tracker from Bloomberg News shows that Maine is outpacing all but one other state — New Hampshire — in the share of its population that's gotten the shots.

New daily infection counts have been trending upward here for the last two months, but Shah says Maine is closer to herd immunity than many other states because of how well the virus was contained throughout the pandemic.

State officials say they have detected a small number of new coronavirus infections in the more than 400,000 Maine residents who have been vaccinated against the disease.

Shah said that his agency has confirmed 107 so-called breakthrough infections in people who completed their final shot. He says that's a low ratio, which points to the strength of the vaccines.

“Another way to frame that is that 99.9998 percent who got vaccinated in Maine did not get COVID. It’s about as close to 100 percent as you get in health care or public health," Shah says.

Shah says that few of the breakthrough cases were serious enough to send someone to the hospital. But one patient, who was in hospice, did die after getting the infection.

The US CDC says that no vaccine is 100% effective, but there is evidence that coronavirus shots may protect individuals against more severe symptoms.

Maine is now working to determine whether any of the state's breakthrough cases were from a more contagious variant of the virus.

The state CDC reported 420 additional cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. One-hundred four people are in the hospital, with 35 in critical care, and 14 on ventilators.

In all, 57,965 cases of the disease have been identified in the state, with 767 deaths.

Maine did passing one public health milestone, having administered more than a million COVID-19 vaccinations as of Tuesday morning.

To make a vaccination appointment, call 888-445-4111 or visit vaccinateme.maine.gov.