BIDDEFORD — More than 500 Mainers received shots of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine Sunday at Biddeford High School, whose gymnasium is serving as a federal immunization clinic through Wednesday.

Doses of the one-shot vaccine were available with or without an appointment, and a steady stream of people filed through amid a late-morning drizzle. Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency gave out health questionnaires at the door, directed people to the back to receive their shots, and watched over them in an observation area before sending them on their way.

“You are receiving J+J,” said a sign outside, followed by another that read: “Questions on J+J? Talk to a provider inside!”

Two federal agencies late last week lifted an 11-day pause on use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The vaccine caused blood clots in a handful of people among millions of recipients in the U.S.

Eight million doses of the vaccine had been given as of Friday, and 15 people, all younger women, developed blood clots. Three have died, and another seven were hospitalized.

This past Friday, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the risk to recipients from J&J was low and the vaccine was otherwise effective, and recommended that the states continue to distribute it. Maine health officials had been using the one-dose vaccine for people who are harder to reach for a second dose, such as those who are unhoused or live in remote areas.


Clinical trials indicate the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 85.4 percent effective against severe disease and hospitalization 28 days after inoculation.

Newly inoculated Mainers outside the clinic on Sunday said they were excited to get their shots. More than one recipient said they had booked an appointment in Biddeford after trying and failing to secure one elsewhere amid high demand.

“It feels great,” Cody Landry said in an interview. “I’ve been wanting this to happen for a long time.”

Landry, 28, works as a bartender in Portland, said the shot would help him feel safer at work. Besides a sting in his upper arm, the vaccination went quickly and smoothly, he said.

Landry and another visitor said they had struggled to secure appointments amid the surge in demand that followed the opening of eligibility to all Mainers 16 and older.

Gabe O’Brien, also of Portland, said he didn’t know which vaccine he was receiving until he arrived. His main reason for visiting Biddeford, he said, was convenience; practically everything else was booked.


Like others on Sunday, O’Brien said he had done some research and spoken with a doctor before receiving a COVID-19 vaccine to feel reassured about the safety of the varieties available.

“I was nervous, honestly. Anything new is a little scary,” O’Brien said.

Rick and Jan Fiore of Wells stand outside Biddeford High School after receiving a Johnson & Johnson vaccine at FEMA’s Mobile Vaccination Clinic on Sunday. The couple didn’t have an appointment and decided to walk in to see if they could get a shot after hearing about the clinic. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Jan and Rick Fiore of Wells said they had delayed their shots because of uncertainty about the new vaccines and because they needed to wait after receiving other shots, including the shingles vaccine.

“We talked to our doctor beforehand and they told us, ‘You need your shot,'” said Jan, who is 70. “And I thought if I got COVID I probably won’t make it.”

Organizers in Biddeford kept the clinic open until about 5 p.m. Sunday to accommodate walk-ins. Around that time, providers there had administered 524 shots, 284 of them walk-ins and 240 for people who had made appointments, according to FEMA spokesman Patrick Boland.

The clinic opened Saturday and will remain open from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. through Wednesday.


Visitors who wanted to receive a different COVID-19 vaccine were directed to other sites, including one in Sanford distributing the two-dose Moderna variety.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, encouraged Mainers to visit the clinics and help build herd immunity.

“Walk-in vaccinations are available and encouraged today,” he said, in part, on Twitter early Sunday morning.

More information about vaccination in Maine, including a list of sites to get a shot, is available on the Maine CDC’s website.

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