Mar. 29—Maine will see a near doubling of COVID-19 vaccine doses through the federal retail pharmacy program this week, as eligibility for that program expands from school staff to everyone age 50 and older.
The 23,370 doses being sent to Walmart, Sam's Club, Walgreens, Hannaford and Shaw's pharmacies this week is much more than the typical 12,000 doses allocated to Maine through the program, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Starting on Thursday, everyone eligible for a vaccine — currently those 50 and older — can get a shot at a retail pharmacy.
When combined with the 45,200 doses being shipped this week through the state vaccination program, Maine will receive a record 68,570 doses this week. That supply far surpasses the previous one-week high of 55,060 the week of March 1, which was the first week the Johnson & Johnson vaccine became available.
Of the doses being sent to pharmacies, Walgreens will receive 11,700 Pfizer doses, Hannaford will get 5,600 Johnson & Johnson doses, and Walmart and Sam's Club will receive 4,300 Moderna doses.
The remaining 1,770 doses, a mix of Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, will be allocated to Shaw's, which is joining the program this week.
"Throughout the pandemic, the communities we serve have trusted our pharmacy teams to play a critical role in maintaining their health and wellness," said Rob Backus, president of Shaw's and Star Market, in a statement on Monday. "Our pharmacy teams are ready to handle the unprecedented demand and administer the vaccine safely and efficiently as members of the public become eligible."
To make an appointment, visit www.shaws.com/COVID-19.
The vaccines shipped to retail pharmacies had been set aside for school staff, as part of a Biden administration initiative to spur schools to more fully open.
Some schools in Maine are planning for or have already announced plans for more in-person learning, including Falmouth, Windham, Freeport, Portland, Auburn and others. Some are returning to five days a week of in-person learning, while others are increasing to four days per week this spring. Most schools in Maine have been operating under a hybrid format, with two days of in-person learning and three days of online school.
Portland's elementary and middle schools will move to four days per week after the April break.
Dr. Nirav Shah, Maine CDC director, said in an interview on WGAN Newsradio this morning that he is "very supportive" of efforts by school districts to expand in-person learning this spring.
"I am quite supportive of this move, this recent push for more kids to be in more school in-person on a consistent basis. I think that is the right direction from a public health perspective," Shah said.
A parent group called BackTo5 is hosting a rally at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday outside the Augusta Civic Center to push for more in-person learning at Maine schools.
Mainers age 16 and older will become eligible for a shot on April 19, although that date could shift depending on supplies coming from the federal government over the next few weeks, and demand for the vaccine. Some states have already opened up eligibility to everyone 16 and older, or will soon.
Maine has given at least one dose to 412,751 people, representing 30.71 percent of the state's 1.3 million population. Also, 255,228 have received their final dose, or 18.99 percent.
Of the 194,000 in the 50 to 59 age category in Maine, 55,018 have received at least their first dose. For those 60 and older, about 279,000 of the 394,000 in those age categories have gotten at least their first dose.
Maine is one of the best states in the country for quickly getting shots into arms, according to the Bloomberg News Vaccine Tracker. Maine ranked fourth-highest — behind New Mexico, Connecticut and South Dakota, and tied with Alaska — for administering at least one dose. The Bloomberg News Tracker calculates first dose slightly differently than the Maine CDC, putting the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine into first dose statistics for all states, rather than the final dose, which is where Maine CDC puts the J&J vaccine statistics. Including J&J, Bloomberg News has Maine at 33.7 percent receiving the first dose, compared to the 28.6 percent national average.
Meanwhile, Maine reported 180 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday. There were no additional deaths.
Since the pandemic began, Maine has recorded 50,030 positive cases of COVID-19, and 736 deaths.
A Franklin County resident was the first in Maine to have the Brazilian variant of COVID-19, known as P1, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The Maine CDC also reported on Friday that it had detected 15 cases of B.1.1.7., first found in the U.K. and four cases of B.22.214.171.124., first discovered in South Africa.
Currently, there are 77 people hospitalized in Maine for COVID-19, including 24 in intensive care.