More than 33,000 Maine residents had been vaccinated for COVID-19 as of Monday morning, which is a higher percentage than almost every other state but still less than 3 percent of the population. The vaccination plan will be a months-long effort, and many people have questions about how it will play out.

Here are answers to some common questions about the vaccination rollout and what to expect in the coming months. Have other questions? Email them to [email protected].

I am a seasonal resident who normally leaves during the winter but has stayed in Maine this year because of the pandemic. Can I get vaccinated in Maine if I’m not a resident? What if my primary care doctor is in another state?

We’ve received this question more than a dozen times in recent days. In another scenario, individuals have moved to Maine temporarily to help an aging parent or family member weather the pandemic. Unfortunately, we don’t have a firm answer because state health officials have yet to settle on a policy.

The issue of seasonal Maine residents – and particularly retired “snowbirds” in higher-risk age groups – is “the subject of ongoing discussions” at the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Maine CDC spokesman Robert Long said the state’s ultimate aim is to vaccinate everyone regardless of residency, especially if they fall within a high-risk group. But the federal government bases its vaccine allocation formula on state populations, so Long said the state is talking with federal officials about finding “an equitable way to vaccinate at-risk ‘snowbirds.’”

This is no minor issue in Maine, where more than 19 percent of homes were considered “vacation” homes, according to a recent report. That is the highest percentage in the nation. But Maine also has the nation’s oldest population, with roughly 20 percent of the people who reside here being over age 65.

That all adds up to a lot of competition for scant supplies of vaccines, at present.

Asked about the issue on a Maine Public call-in program on Monday, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said his agency also has heard from Maine residents wintering in other states. Shah is talking with his counterparts in other states.

“Vaccines remain a precious commodity today, but hopefully, at some point in the future, there will be a sufficient number of vaccines authorized and they will be produced in large enough numbers to where we won’t have to make those distinctions,” Shah said on “Maine Calling.” “The only thing we will care about is vaccinating folks so the entire country can get back to normal.”

Will I be able to get vaccinated at my local pharmacy when it is my turn, just like the flu shot?

That’s the plan – eventually.

National pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens are already administering vaccines to residents and staff at Maine’s long-term care homes as part of the first phase of vaccinations for the highest-risk individuals. The Maine CDC also is talking with the chains, and others, about offering COVID-19 vaccines to the broader public when that time arrives.

Additionally, Hannaford Supermarkets announced last week that it plans to offer COVID vaccines at its pharmacies in Maine and four other New England states when the states get to Phase 2 of vaccinations.

Shah said Monday that the state is also discussing options for mass-vaccination clinics around the state where thousands of people could receive shots in a single day. The challenge there, Shah said, is setting up such large-scale vaccination events in a way that avoids long lines of people that, in turn, become super-spreader events for the virus.

So where are we now in the vaccination rollout?

As of February 26, Maine is using a strictly age-based eligibility system for vaccinations. The timeline listed below could change, depending on the pace of dose deliveries to the state and how quickly clinics are administering shots. But here are the latest estimates:

Currently: All Maine residents age 70 or older as well as medical professionals, public safety workers, COVID-19 response personnel, residents and staff at long-term care homes, assisted living facilities, etc…

Starting March 3: Age 60 and older

April: Age 50 and older

May: Age 40 and older

June: Age 30 and older

July: All ages including children, pending federal approval of vaccines for children

What about those under age 16?

The Pfizer vaccine was approved for ages 16 and older, and the Moderna vaccine for those 18 and older. However, research has begun on using the vaccines for those age 12 and older, and is expected to begin this year for younger children. People in these age groups would already be among the last to receive the vaccine, and it’s unclear how long it will take to complete the research on children and have them approved for a vaccine, but expect it to be well into 2021. However, with both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines having 95 percent effectiveness rates and more vaccines potentially being approved in 2021, case rates, if all goes well, will be declining substantially by late spring or summer, public health experts have said.

I have a condition that weakens my immune system. I have allergies. Should I receive the vaccine?

The U.S. CDC says people with immune conditions should consult with their doctor, but they are eligible to receive the vaccine. Those with allergies can receive the vaccine unless they are allergic to the specific ingredients used in the vaccines. Follow this link for more information on the COVID-19 vaccine and allergies.

How will people know when it is their turn?

Primary care physicians or the health clinics where people receive care will likely play a major role in notifying people about vaccinations, although the specifics have yet to be worked out. Also, expect a robust public information campaign around that time and vaccination events at civic centers, fire departments, schools or other public places in order to get as many shots into arms as possible.

How do the vaccines work?

The vaccines contain a genetic molecule, known as mRNA, that prompts the body to stimulate the immune system to fight COVID-19. While the vaccine does not contain a live version of the coronavirus that can cause the disease, it should allow your body’s immune system to “remember” or recognize (and fight off) the virus if and when it encounters the real thing.

Will I have to pay to be vaccinated?

Maybe. The federal government is supplying all vaccines for free, regardless of whether individuals have private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid or no health coverage. But doctors or other health providers can charge an administration fee for actually injecting the vaccine into your arm, although federal rules also allow them to be reimbursed for that fee by insurers or the government.

Are there side effects to the vaccines?

As with almost any vaccine, people may experience mild side effects such as soreness or swelling at the injection site, body aches or even fever, all of which indicate the body’s immune system is responding as expected to what it views as an invader. There have been rare instances of more severe reactions.

At least a handful of those have happened in health care workers in Maine who experienced severe allergic reactions after being inoculated at Maine Medical Center. All of the workers were administered a drug to counteract the allergy and have since recovered. Shah said some evidence suggests individuals allergic to shellfish, or who have other severe allergies, could be more at risk of a reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine, but those instances remain rare. That is why individuals should be monitored on site for 15 to 30 minutes after receiving the shot.

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