With COVID-19 vaccines at the forefront of many people’s minds, we would like to share a brief update from your local health system. Mid Coast Hospital continues to provide many resources in support of our region’s pandemic response, including the COVID-19 information line, drive-thru testing site and the large-scale regional vaccination clinic, which we opened in January at Brunswick Parks and Recreation.

We also continue to care for patients with COVID-19 both in the hospital and at our outpatient practices. The second surge of the virus began in late November and continued through mid-February. We experienced a small reprieve through late March; however, over the past week, we have begun to see an uptick in the number of COVID-19 inpatients at Mid Coast Hospital.

Our census of COVID-19 patients encompasses both local community members and transfers from other parts of the state. This reflects statewide trends as more counties are reporting increases of the number of daily cases and greater positivity rates. A significant and concerning detail about these new cases is that the average age of those testing positive is a younger demographic. One of the factors driving this is the surging variant strains, which are far more contagious. We are now in a race of virus versus vaccine.

Fortunately, the Mid Coast Hospital vaccination clinic is performing exceptionally well, having administered more than 35,000 COVID-19 vaccinations to date. Approximately 30% of Maine’s population is fully vaccinated, which places us in the top five states in the country. Additionally, with increased appointment availability at local pharmacies, community members have access to more vaccination options, which we hope will increase the percentage of completed vaccinations.

If we continue to have a consistent vaccine supply, our regional vaccination clinic is able to administer 1,000 daily vaccinations. We have also received a very limited supply of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine, which CHANS Home Health & Hospice is using to vaccinate our existing home health patients. We are exploring ways to reach other homebound and vulnerable populations as increased access to the J&J/Janssen vaccine becomes available.

We are also happy to see the expedited age expansion for vaccine eligibility from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Now, any Maine resident 16 or older is eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine. The recommended age for receiving the Moderna and J&J/Janssen vaccines remains age 18 and older, though we await research from manufacturers that may result in approval for vaccinating younger individuals.

Our goal remains to vaccinate as many individuals as quickly and safely as possible. To ensure patient and staff safety, vaccination at the Mid Coast Hospital vaccination clinic continues to be by appointment only. All eligible individuals can register by calling (877) 780-7545 or visiting midcoasthealth.com/vaccine to schedule an appointment. With additional demand for vaccines, appointments are filling fast. We appreciate your patience and understanding that currently, the demand for vaccines exceeds our supply. We encourage you to check our website on Fridays around noon to view upcoming appointments, as we add vaccination appointments for the following week each Friday from 10 a.m.-noon.

We are grateful for the outpouring of volunteers who continue to serve at the vaccination clinic, both in an administrative and clinical capacity, with nearly 1,000 volunteers currently supporting this monumental effort. We are also extremely thankful for organizations such as Bath Savings Institution, Bowdoin College, CEI, People Plus, the Bath Area Family YMCA, Bath Senior Center, Harpswell Aging at Home, and Freeport Community Services, as well as local Rotary clubs who have coordinated volunteers or helped with outreach efforts. Clinic volunteers have provided more than 10,000 hours of dedicated service to ensure smooth operations, enabling our providers, nurses, and support staff throughout the system to continue to care for our patients.

If you are looking to support the ongoing efforts to combat COVID-19, we have one simple request: please get your COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you are able, and encourage others to do so as well. It has been a challenging year for everyone, but vaccination is the one reliable pathway to end this pandemic. While our frontline healthcare staff remain prepared, dedicated, and knowledgeable about how to care for people with COVID-19, we very much look forward to putting this devastating pandemic behind us.

We thank you for your support in helping to care for the health of our community. Please be safe and stay well!

Lois Skillings is the president of Mid Coast-Parkview Health.

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