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Hospital Officials In Maine Say They're Ready To Deliver COVID-19 Booster Shots

To understand vaccine-induced immunity more fully, researchers are comparing antibody levels in people who received the Moderna vaccine but still got COVID-19 with levels in people who got the vaccine but didn't fall ill.
To understand vaccine-induced immunity more fully, researchers are comparing antibody levels in people who received the Moderna vaccine but still got COVID-19 with levels in people who got the vaccine but didn't fall ill.

Hospital officials in Maine say they're ready to deliver booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine, following the Biden Administration's announcement Wednesday that it plans to offer third shots beginning in mid-September. The rollout in Maine is not expected to be as frenzied as when the vaccine was first available and a crush of people sought limited slots for doses.

The plan - which is still awaiting FDA and US CDC authorization - calls for administering booster shots to people who received the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines eight months after getting their final dose. Dr. Dora Mills of MaineHealth say that means health care workers and residents of long term care facilities would be first up in September, followed by adults 70 and older who would become eligible beginning in October.

"Ya know the vast majority of people who got vaccinated early on have a few weeks to get this, so this isn't an emergency or anything like that."

The Maine CDC issued a statement Wednesday saying it will work to ensure booster shots will be available throughout the state once they're federally authorized. And John Porter, a spokesperson for MaineHealth, say the existing infrastructure to vaccinate against COVID-19 should be able to handle the incremental increase in demand. Dr. James Jarvis of Northern Light Health says he also doesn't expect a need to reopen large-scale clinics.

"Ya know we've made the availability of vaccines so much better than we could initially. Because initially we were hampered by the amount of vaccine we actually had. And that is not a problem for us right now. As of now, Maine has an adequate supply of vaccine," Jarvis says.

At Central Maine Healthcare, its high volume clinic at the Auburn Mall has been operating continuously since March and officials say it can scale up or down as needed. And the need for a booster shot makes sense, says Dora Mills of MaineHealth. There are signs of waning immunity against COVID-19, she says, and the Delta variant is so contagious extra protection is needed.

"Increasingly this looks like this is going to look a lot more like influenza over time, in that, ya know, we line up every fall to get a flu shot so we may be lining up periodically to get our COVID shot as well," Mills says.

Booster shots are already available for people who are immuno-compromised, like Marie Pandolfo of Cumberland Center. She stopped in at a pharmacy in Falmouth Wednesday morning to get her third shot.

"I thought it was important to take it, to protect me, to protect others. I have grandchildren and sons. So that was my motive," Pandolfo says.

While health officials expect that many people who are already vaccinated will be open to getting a booster, they say it's increasingly important that those who are not vaccinated get the shot. Dr. Mills says just look at the surge in hospitalizations - and who is in the hospital- to see why.

"Our hospitalizations have doubled in the last two to three weeks. The vast majority are unvaccinated. People who are vaccinated who are hospitalized are generally people who are 65 or older or people who are medically fragile," Mills says.

All of those patients, she says, are in need of doses- whether it's their first or a booster.