The number of weekly COVID-19 vaccinations in Maine has decreased for four consecutive weeks and the state is looking for ways to make inroads with individuals who have yet to be vaccinated.

According to data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of total vaccinations decreased by half, from a high of 125,390 the week of April 5-9 – the first week eligibility opened to all adults – to just 64,290 doses for the week of May 3-9.

Maine still leads all states in the percentage of its population that is fully vaccinated, but demand has cratered recently, especially among younger individuals who have so far been less eager to get vaccinated. The number of daily shots peaked at about 21,000 per day in mid-April and is now closer to 11,000 per day.

It wasn’t clear how the Food and Drug Administration’s approval Monday of the Pfizer vaccine for use by 12- to 15-year-olds would affect demand. A spokesman for the Maine CDC didn’t respond to an email Monday night seeking information about how many Mainers are in the 12-to-15 age group and whether the agency had estimated what the demand would be.

Vaccinations have slowed across the country as well, from a peak of about 3.3 million per day in mid-April to about 2 million per day now. Health experts have long expected demand to wane, but things have plateaued in the United States far short of herd immunity, the low end of which is about 70 percent. The sluggish progress on vaccinations also comes at a time when more and more states are loosening pandemic restrictions ahead of the summer months.

Overall, Maine has now administered 655,870 first doses, accounting for 48.8 percent of the population, and 587,945 final doses, covering 43.7 percent of the population. Maine has consistently been among the states with the highest vaccination rate for weeks, according to a Bloomberg tracker – about 10 percentage points higher than the national rate and nearly 20 percentage points higher than the lowest vaccinated states. The four states with the highest rates are all in New England.

Among Maine residents 60 or older, who are at the greatest risk of serious illness or death, 80.2 percent have been fully vaccinated. However, among those  between 16 and 39 – the group responsible for the majority of new cases – just 28 percent have received their final shot.

And even though Maine’s overall rate of vaccination is high compared to other states, there are still big gaps in some counties. Cumberland County has the highest rate of vaccination at 51.5 percent, followed by Lincoln County at 48.6 percent. On the other end, just 35.5 percent of Somerset County residents have been fully vaccinated, followed by 36.6 percent in Oxford County.

State health officials reported 214 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, the fourth consecutive day of fewer than 300 cases. No additional deaths were reported.

The seven-day daily case average now stands at 302, which is down from 352 two weeks ago and from 334 cases this time last month. Since the pandemic began, there have been 64,208 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 in Maine and 795 deaths, according to the CDC.

Despite the slight decrease in cases, Maine’s seven-day case rate per 100,000 people is still the fourth-highest in the country and nearly twice as high as the national rate, according to the U.S. CDC. Some of that, however, is due to testing volume. Maine is testing far more people than most other states, especially states in the south that have seen their case averages drop. Those states have low vaccination rates as well.

Hospitalizations remain stubbornly high in Maine. As of Monday, 131 individuals were in the hospital with COVID-19, including 50 in critical care and 22 on ventilators. Hospitalizations haven’t been this high since the beginning of February, and they are being driven by younger people who have yet to be vaccinated against the virus.

With the decreasing demand for vaccinations, Maine has shifted its strategy, with sites increasingly offering walk-in availability and later hours to provide flexibility for those who have yet to get vaccinated. The state’s two biggest mass vaccination sites, at Cross Insurance Center in Bangor and at Scarborough Downs, will close this month and move to smaller sites.

The next stage, reaching those who are less eager or who still have concerns about the vaccine, is going to be critical in determining how close the state and country can get to herd immunity.

Four Maine doctors will host a virtual forum on COVID-19 vaccines called “Ask Maine Doctors,” at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Those interested in participating can register online at: mecap.com/forum. The forum is part of a broader educational effort by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund, the Maine Public Health Association and the Maine Community Action Partnership that also will feature short videos promoted on social media talking about the benefits of vaccinations.

A mobile site operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency will operate this week at the LaFleur Airport in Waterville before returning to Oxford and then Windham, where people who received first doses last month can get their second dose of the Moderna vaccine.

The city of Lewiston also has partnered with Promerica Health and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services on a mobile clinic on Oak Street that will be offering walk-in appointments all week: from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Monday, from 1-7 p.m. on Tuesday, from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. on Wednesday, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Thursday and from 7 a.m.-12 p.m. on Friday.

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