In the two months since Maine’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts began, community-level answers on when and where Lakes Region residents can get the vaccine remain scant and discombobulated, reflective of the state- and nationwide confusion over how needles will get into arms.

Vaccine doses are being allocated to various agencies, health care networks and other providers across the state with no centralized system available to the public. In the Lakes Region, pharmacy retailers and some long-term care facilities have declined to comment on where their allotment has gone, and providers have said that the sporadic and limited supply makes it difficult to say when and where residents can get vaccinated.

As of Wednesday, Maine reported 121,220 vaccinations administered, 76% of which were the first of two doses. Maine is nearing the end of Phase 1a, which includes emergency responders, health care personnel and residents and staff of long-term care facilities, and has begun Phase 1b, which includes people over the age of 70 and those with high-risk medical conditions.

There are an estimated 143,000 individuals in Phase 1a and more than 190,000 in Phase 1b, according to a report in the Portland Press Herald. Due to the limited vaccine supply, Maine is restricting vaccinations to residents only.

The state has designated up to three emergency response agencies in each county to administer the vaccine to first responders. In Cumberland County, Scarborough, Gorham and Portland fire departments were selected to hold vaccine clinics, though there is no centralized database of which departments have opted to receive the vaccine.

Scarborough Fire Department held a vaccination clinic at the North Yarmouth Community Center Jan. 6 for a number of area agencies, including Gray and New Gloucester fire/rescue departments.

The U.S. CDC has contracted out the vaccine rollout at many long-term care facilities and skilled nursing facilities to retail pharmacy giants Walgreens and CVS. The Maine CDC does not have any oversight into the program, said spokesperson Robert Long.

When reached for comment, spokespeople from Walgreens and CVS declined to give facility-level data due to “privacy reasons,” instead directing the Lakes Region Weekly to statewide vaccine orders posted to their websites.

There are at least five long-term care facilities with 10 or more beds in the Lakes Region, including Ledgewood Manor in Windham, a nursing home with 60 beds, and Bella Point Bridgton, which is listed as a private, non-medical facility with a 57-bed capacity on the Department of Health and Human Services’ website.

Ledgewood Manor Infection Preventionist Pam Dufrense declined to comment and Bella Point Bridgton Clinical Director Martina Giordano could not immediately be reached.

CVS has partnered with 208 facilities across the state and administered 11,072 vaccines while Walgreens has partnered with 229 facilities and administered 7,978 vaccines as of earlier this week.

According to the Maine CDC, Bridgton Hospital has received a total of 500 doses of the vaccine over the last seven weeks. Jill Rollins, Director of Nursing and Patient Care at the hospital said that all staff who opted to receive the vaccine have gotten the first dose. Booster shots began last week.

She said the hospital has also been holding vaccination clinics for other community healthcare providers, such as dentists and optometrists, for example, and will hold the first clinic for people 70 and over this weekend.

“This has been the most enjoyable, difficult work that I’ve done in my 32 years of work,” Rollins said Wednesday. “The public is so happy and appreciative that they’re getting the vaccine.”

She said that the vaccine’s limited availability complicates the already enormous task at hand.

“It sounds on the surface that it is a very simple task,” Rollins said. “(We’re) vaccinating thousands of people in a very small community hospital with very limited resources, with resources that are already stretched. It is a big task.”

Central Maine Healthcare, the health care system which includes Bridgton Hospital, is preparing to begin scheduling appointments for those 70 and older, per its website.

The vaccination site at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston is one of 36 vaccination sites listed on the Maine CDC website. As of Wednesday morning, none were in the Lakes Region. The clinic at Bridgton Hospital that Rollins mentioned was not listed.

Northern Light Mercy Health Director of Communications and Government Relations said via Public Relations Director Karen Cashman earlier this week that as of right now, Portland’s Mercy Hospital is the only vaccination site in their network but they are “continuously looking at alternative sites, which are dependent on the availability of the vaccine.”

Northern Light Mercy Health Center at 409 Roosevelt Trail in Windham is part of their network.

Representatives from MaineHealth did not return a request for comment.

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