SANFORD, Maine – Elaine Brady started volunteering in late November at the vaccination and booster clinic at the Center for Shopping. As a member of the Sanford-Springvale Altrusa Club, she wanted to be part of the effort to keep people safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Back then, and up through the holidays, Brady said she would sit at her table and process visitors for two hours straight “without taking a drink of water.” The line of people waiting to get vaccinated or boosted was like the lines you can see for any of the rides at Disney World, she added.
“Especially before the holidays, it was very, very busy,” Brady said. “Everybody was going to see family. They wanted to make sure they were vaccinated.”
“At the beginning of January, it slowed down,” Brady said. “It used to be, at 1 o’clock, when we opened, there’d be a line all the way down to Planet Fitness.”
Indeed, few people filtered into the clinic during a mid-afternoon stretch on Wednesday.
Fewer volunteers are needed during these slower days at the clinic, according to Caitlin Lipert, the training and response coordinator for the York County Emergency Management Agency, which operates the clinic. On Wednesday, there were about 25 volunteers on duty in the mid afternoon.
“With 700 to 800 people a day, we could use anywhere from 30 to 40 volunteers in a shift, if not more,” Lipert said.
York County EMA Deputy Director Megan Arsenault said the numbers demonstrate Brady’s observations.
“We are seeing a pretty steady decrease of people coming through the door,” Arsenault said. “At this point, we’re seeing between 250 and 450 people a day, on average.”
That’s down from between 500 and 800 people who visited the clinic on a daily average before the turn of the new year, according to Arsenault.
What’s the reason for the decrease? It could be that those in York County who plan to get vaccinated or boosted already have done so. That could apply to people in general, as the clinic also has served individuals from other states and even outside of the country, according to Arsenault.
“We’re hoping that we’re getting to that saturation point, but we’re not exactly sure where the change is coming from,” she said.
The weather could be a factor, too. The new year has brought frequent drops to single-digit temperatures, with snow, rain and high, cutting winds often added to the wintry mix. And then there is Brady’s suggestion that the long lines before the holidays were people getting vaccinated or boosted before family gatherings.
Whatever the reason, the need is still there, Arsenault said.
“We’re encouraging people who have not been vaccinated or boosted to check us out,” she said.
Arsenault said York County EMA decided on Wednesday to adjust the Sanford clinic's hours of operation in response to the decrease in visitors.
The clinic will be open Friday, Jan. 21, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., but it will no longer open on Fridays thereafter.
Moving forward, the clinic will be closed on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It will be open from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.
The clinic is located in the former Marshalls department store at 1364 Main St.
As of Wednesday, Jan. 18, more than 2.4 million vaccine doses had been administered in Maine, including nearly 531,000 booster doses, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
These data do not include vaccinations administered to Maine residents by federal programs such as the VA and DOD, as well as vaccinations of Maine residents administered in other states.
Adding a site for antibody treatment
Arsenault said on Tuesday that the county is in the process of setting up a new operation at the Center for Shopping at one of the current vacancies near the clinic: a monoclonal antibody treatment center.
The center will be for people who have COVID and need certain attention because they have a medical condition or their health care provider considers them a risk for hospitalization or death.
The opening date of the new clinic has not been determined, according to Arsenault.
She added that York County EMA will be on scene to help support the community until the end of the pandemic.
“Which hopefully will be soon,” she added, echoing the hopes of many as the pandemic approaches its two-year mark.
Vaccination clinic hours of operation
Beginning on Sunday, Jan. 23, the COVID-19 vaccination center operated by York County Emergency Management Agency at the former Marshalls story in Sanford, at 1364 Main St., will be open three days per week:
Tuesdays: from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Thursdays: from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturdays: from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Additional vaccination sites are listed on the state's website: www.maine.gov/covid19.
This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Sanford ME vaccination site cuts hours as fewer seeking COVID shots