Gov. Janet Mills announced revisions Wednesday to the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan that aims to speed up inoculations of older Mainers and individuals with high-risk medical conditions.

Here are answers to a few questions. Have others? Email them to [email protected].

What are the latest changes to the initial phases of the vaccination plan?

Perhaps the biggest shift is that Maine residents between the ages of 70 and 74 will be eligible for vaccines – along with everyone 75 or older – as early as January 18. Additionally, adults with underlying medical conditions that put them at higher risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19 would be eligible for vaccination during Phase 1B, as well as those between the ages of 65-69, but only after a “significant number” of people 70 and older have been vaccinated, or if the supply of the vaccine increases.

Previously, Maine had been following federal guidance that recommended vaccinating individuals 75 or older and “essential” front-line workers during the next phase. Younger individuals with high-risk medical conditions, meanwhile, had been slated for vaccination along with 65- to 74-year-olds during Phase 1C, which isn’t likely to start until midspring.

So while Wednesday’s changes (also in response to evolving federal guidance) aren’t monumental shifts, they seek to address the stark reality that roughly 85 percent of Maine’s 450-plus deaths have been among people 70 or older.

I’m in those groups. How will I know when I can get vaccinated?

The Mills administration and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said they will have more information on vaccinations for those 70 and older next week. In the meantime, the administration is asking older Mainers to wait before contacting their health care providers.

Are any groups newly eligible for vaccination now during Phase 1A?

Yes.

The Mills administration announced that vaccinations will begin this week for police officers, firefighters, correctional officers and “critical COVID-19 response personnel.” The latter designation would include Maine CDC staff working on COVID-19 as well as some frontline employees at IDEXX Laboratories in Westbrook, Abbott Laboratories in Scarborough, Puritan Medical Products in Guilford and Jackson Laboratories in Bar Harbor. All of those companies are involved in producing testing equipment and supplies or running tests.

Since mid-December, Phase 1A has been focused on hospital workers and other medical personnel, first responders, medical professionals who work outside of hospitals (such as private practitioners, specialists and dentists), and residents and staff of long-term care facilities.

What about other “essential workers” such as teachers and grocery store employees? Are they still eligible for vaccination during Phase 1B?

Yes, although no final decisions have been made about which categories of employees will be included in Phase 1B. The state is still awaiting more information from the incoming Biden administration on vaccine supply before making those decisions.

Maine has largely followed federal guidelines on the vaccine rollout, and those federal recommendations have listed teachers, day care workers, postal workers, grocery store employees and individuals who work in food or agricultural production among groups that should be vaccinated during Phase 1B.

Even though some categories of workers ultimately will be included in Phase 1B, they will be slotted behind those 70 and older and then those between the ages of 65-69, who are at greater risk of dying from COVID-19.

There is likely to be overlap among the groups within Phase 1B, both to remain flexible and ensure that no dose goes to waste, according to the governor’s office.

I’m 65 years old but relatively healthy. Did anything change for me after Wednesday’s announcement?

Potentially. The governor said in her new policy statement that after a “significant number” of people 70 and older have been vaccinated, or if the supply of the vaccine increases, Maine will move to vaccinate those 65 to 69 during phase 1B, which is in line with new federal recommendations.

So what’s the current anticipated timing for each of these phases?

This is very tentative and depends on the pace of vaccine production, distribution to the states and Maine’s ability to get those shots “into arms,” as the Maine CDC’s Dr. Nirav Shah likes to say. But here are some anticipated timelines outlined by Mills on Wednesday:

Phase 1A (medical professionals, first responders, police/fire personnel, critical COVID-19 response personnel, long-term care home): through the rest of January.

Phase 1B (Mainers 70 and above, followed by adults with high-risk medical conditions, 65- to 69-year-olds and some essential workers): starting in late-January or early February into April.

Phase 1C (other critical workers not identified for Phase 1B): starting in April and continuing through late spring or early summer

Phase 2 (all other Mainers between 16 and 64): Probably starting in late spring or summer

How many vaccines have been administered in Maine to date?

As of Wednesday, the Maine CDC reported 62,004 doses had been administered across Maine. That figure includes 53,511 first doses and 8,493 second doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.