Kennebunk Fire and Rescue paramedic David Garriepy administers a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination to Mary Rich of Waterboro following the official opening of the site at the Center for Shopping in Sanford on Tuesday, March 2. Tammy Wells Photo

SANFORD — Mary Rich of Waterboro was the first on Tuesday to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, administered by Kennebunk Fire and Rescue paramedic David Garriepy, at the new mass vaccination clinic at the Center for Shopping in Sanford. Her husband, Chuck, was second in the chair.

“It was the best shot I ever had,” said Mary. She said she didn’t feel a thing when Garriepy put the needle in her arm. Minutes after the vaccine was administered, Mary said she was feeling a lot better about the future. She and Chuck are looking ahead, to a couple of weeks after their second shot is administered, so they can they have a little more freedom — to spend time with their 5-year-old great grandniece, or simply go out and have a meal in a favorite restaurant.

She’s looking forward to the day when the prayer group she attends can meet again — they met outside, under a carport, until the weather got cold.

And there are the holidays.

“This was the first time in 56 years we had Thanksgiving (with) just the two of us,” said Mary, looking back to that November day. “We’d always been the host family.”

“This couldn’t happen fast enough for me,” said Chuck of getting the vaccine

“The vaccination is another layer of protection for me,” said Mary.

The Sanford clinic will administer vaccines from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. six days a week — Wednesday through Monday, by appointment only. There was a soft opening Monday, vaccinating 240 people, before Tuesday’s official event.

The site is a collaboration between York County government, Southern Maine Health Care and MaineHealth, and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah spoke of the collaboration between all the agencies involved and the work it took to get the center open.

He said such sites don’t happen on their own. The clinic is opening at the right time, Shah said.

The York County mass vaccination clinic officially opened Tuesday at the Center for Shopping in Sanford, at 1364 Main St. The vaccines are administered by appointment. Tammy Wells Photo

In a pandemic, every day matters,” he said.

When the vaccine supply is more robust, the center will be able to administer as many as 1,000 vaccines a day. It is staffed with personnel from Southern Maine Health Care, municipal employees from across the county, and students from the University of New England. Patients, who must be 60 or older in this phase of the rollout, may register for a vaccination by calling the MaineHealth COVID-19 Vaccine Assistant at 1-877-780-7545.

For more vaccine information, visit https://www.mainehealth.org/Coronavirus-COVID-19/Vaccine/FAQs.

Shah said it will take more time for the vaccine supply to meet the need.

“It will be a gradual increase of the amount of vaccine coming to Maine,” said Shah.

He said the Sanford vaccination clinic is one more step toward the goal of getting shots into the arms of Maine people as quickly and fairly as possible.

Among those attending the official opening of the new York County mass COVID-19 vaccination site in Sanford Tuesday morning was Maine Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Nirav Shah. Tammy Wells Photo

“As our federal partners increase vaccine allocations to Maine, we will have the infrastructure in place to increase capacity and vaccinate more southern Maine residents,” Shah said. “We thank MaineHealth and York County Emergency Management Agency for their partnership.”

York County Commission Chair Richard Dutremble of Biddeford said the mass vaccination center is a positive development.

“It is very much needed,” he said.

Commissioners Richard Clark and Donna Ring agreed.

“This is central. No one (in York County) is terribly far from here,” said Clark, of Wells, noting the location in the shopping center at 1364 Main St.

Ring, whose district includes Sanford and several rural communities, said the mass vaccination site will be more convenient for her constituents.

Among the partners collaborating to open the site was the City of Sanford, the host community of the clinic.
“I’m really proud of the work done to make this possible,” said Mayor Anne-Marie Mastraccio, further noting its central location within York County.
Remarking on the clinic space’s former use, Mastraccio said “today is the first time in a very long time I can say I don’t miss Marshall’s at all.”

“This is just great. This the kind of work government should be doing, with partnerships,” said County Manager Greg Zinser. “This is a prime example of successful partnering.”

Mary and Chuck Rich, who received their first COVID-19 vaccination shots at the official opening of the York County mass vaccination clinic in Sanford on Tuesday, chat with Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah. Tammy Wells Photo

Zinser recalled a conversation he had about the coronavirus with York County Emergency Management Agency Director Art Cleaves a year ago.

“Art looked at me and said, ‘it could be bad,’” Zinser recalled. “That was the beginning of the county government’s response.”

Dr. Michael Schmitz, the clinic director, watched as Garriepy administered Mary Rich’s shot, and then uploaded the information to the state’s system. The collaboration is an example of the willingness of all of the partners to “push back against COVID,” he said.

“There is no retreat, no surrender… for what we need to do to protect our community,” said Schmitz, adding he looks forward to the day when the vaccination mission is complete.

York County commissioners in February unanimously approved the lease, through Dec. 31, with CFC Limited Partnership. The monthly fee is just under $30,000. The county will be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for those costs, plus other expenses like personnel and equipment.

As vaccinations continue, Southern Maine Health Care officials advised that people should continue wearing masks, wash hands frequently, keeping a safe distance from others and avoid crowds.others and avoid crowds.

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