Mary Rich of Waterboro is vaccinated by David Garriepy at the MaineHealth vaccination clinic in Sanford on Tuesday. The clinic is in a former Marshall’s department store. Garriepy is a paramedic with Kennebunk Fire and Rescue. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The number of vaccination sites is expanding rapidly in Maine as the supply of vaccine from the federal government tops 50,000 doses this week for the first time. With the addition of more than 30 Hannaford pharmacies, alongside pharmacies located in Walmarts and Walgreens, there are now or soon will be more than 150 locations offering vaccines to individuals 60 or older.

Here is the latest timeline for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout as well as answers to questions about preregistration, getting on multiple lists and having that long-awaited post-vaccination dinner with friends or family. Have other questions? Email them to [email protected].

What is the latest anticipated timeline for vaccinations in Maine?

Maine began using a strictly age-based eligibility system for vaccinations on Friday. The timeline listed below could change, depending on the pace of dose deliveries to the state and how quickly clinics are administering shots. President Biden announced Tuesday that he believes there will be enough vaccines produced for all adult Americans to be inoculated by the end of May, which would be two months ahead of the schedule Maine laid out Friday:

• 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 and assisted-living facilities

• Starting Wednesday: 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

Are there any medical exceptions that would allow someone to get vaccinated before their age group?

No, not at this time. By adopting a strictly age-based system, the Mills administration dropped previous plans to begin vaccinating people with high-risk medical conditions as well as some “essential” front-line workers during the latter stages of Phase 1B. The argument is that an age-based strategy will be faster, more efficient and easier to verify, thereby enabling the state to achieve “herd immunity” in less time.

However, some people may be able to get a shot earlier than others in their age group due to their unique health circumstances.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services allow vaccine providers to prioritize shots within age categories based on individuals’ health risks. In other words, a 62-year-old with cancer or kidney disease might be able to get a shot before a healthy 62-year-old even if the latter registered first. Those decisions will be made by vaccine providers.

When should I preregister even if it’s not my turn for vaccination?

In the absence of a centralized, statewide system, each vaccine provider in Maine has its own system for registering vaccine recipients and setting up appointments.

MaineHealth and some hospitals are offering preregistration to any member of the public and will then contact individuals when their age group is eligible and they have an open appointment. Other providers – such as Northern Light Health, Walmart and Walgreens – are only registering people when they have appointments available. And still other health care networks, including many of the federally qualified health centers, are currently vaccinating only their patients.

But a handful of medium-sized providers that were initially focused solely on their patients, such as InterMed and Martin’s Point Health in the Portland area, have recently opened up vaccinations to any age-eligible person. So it is worth checking the state’s vaccination site list periodically.

That complete list of vaccination sites and providers is available online at www.maine.gov/covid19/vaccines/vaccination-sites.

Should I register or preregister at multiple sites?

It’s obvious that many people in Maine are already doing this in hopes that getting on multiple lists will increase their odds of snagging an appointment.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, has urged people to refrain from doing so because it potentially gums up the system, in part, because the agency looks at those wait lists to gauge demand at individual vaccination clinics. Instead, Shah recommended in late-January that people choose one vaccine provider – such as their local hospital – and get on their registry or wait list, if they have one.

Maine CDC spokesman Robert Long said the agency’s position has not changed.

“Providing doses for the growing number of vaccination clinics equitably depends on our ability to match supply with demand as closely as possible,” Long wrote in an email Tuesday. “Registering for multiple vaccination appointments skews demand analysis and complicates the effort to get every dose that Maine receives into a resident’s arm.”

MaineHealth, which maintains the state’s largest preregistration system, also is asking people who get appointments or vaccinations elsewhere to remove themselves from MaineHealth’s wait list. They can do that by calling (877) 780-7545 and following the prompts.

I’m fully vaccinated, as are my friends or family. Can we get together (privately) for dinner or to socialize without wearing masks?

The guidance on this frequently asked question is changing rapidly as more people are vaccinated and scientists gather more information. So it’s worth a follow-up to an earlier Q&A that sought to address this topic.

First, a few things that haven’t changed. It still takes two weeks to be considered fully inoculated after receiving the final dose of vaccine, whether that’s the second doses of Pfizer or Moderna or the single-shot vaccine produced by Johnson & Johnson. And none of those vaccines offers 100 percent protection from infection, so there is still a risk, albeit a small one.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time” program last week that while the data is still coming in, it is common sense that fully vaccinated people can start seeing each other privately.

“Even though the risk is not zero, the risk becomes extremely low when you have both parties vaccinated,” Fauci said. He later added:

“My professional judgment is that when my daughter wants to come in here and she is doubly vaccinated, I’m going to have her over to the house, and I’m going to give her a big hug that I haven’t been able to do for a year,” Fauci told host Chris Cuomo.

On Tuesday, Shah took a similar position.

“It becomes with each study less and less likely that somebody who has been fully vaccinated can harbor the virus in sufficient loads or sufficient volumes to actually transmit it to somebody else,” he said.

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