Morse High School sophomore Nick Pesce, 15, holds still while receiving the COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday through a clinic at the school. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

Morse High School held its second COVID-19 vaccine clinic for Regional School Unit 1 students Wednesday, one of many such clinics offering vaccines to local students. Meanwhile, healthcare professionals said adolescents are taking the task of battling COVID-19 into their own hands.

One student said they chose to get vaccinated without their parent knowing. The student, who asked to be anonymous, said their parent doesn’t trust the vaccine was tested thoroughly enough before being approved for mass distribution and shouldn’t be offered to the public until more testing is done. The student said they don’t agree with that reasoning.

“I trust the doctors and the people who made the vaccine,” they said. “I don’t think they’d put it out if they didn’t think it was safe for people yet.”

The student said they were further motivated to get vaccinated because it’s the one thing standing between them and attending in-person classes when they attend college in the fall. That alone makes getting vaccinated the obvious choice, they said, eager to put online classes behind them.

“College is requiring that you be vaccinated to do in-person classes,” they said. “Otherwise, classes are online. Doing online classes was hard enough this year and last spring and I don’t want to do it anymore.”

Morse High School seniors Mark Werner (left) and Gabriel Croteau (right) wait in the high school gymnasium after receiving their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Both said they chose to get vaccinated because it gives them peace of mind. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

Since the Pfizer vaccine was approved for children 12 and older about a month ago, 447 children ages 12-15 in Sagadahoc County have received their second dose of the vaccine. In Cumberland County, 4,507 children ages 12-15 were fully inoculated as of Thursday, according to the Maine vaccination dashboard.

Another 708 teens ages 16-19 in Sagadahoc County have received their second dose and 7,578 teens ages 16-19 in Cumberland county are fully vaccinated, according to state data.

In total, about 60% of people ages 12-19 in Cumberland County have received at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine as of Thursday. In Sagadahoc County, about 50% of the 12-19 population has received at least one dose, according to the state vaccine dashboard.

Statewide, just over 44% of the 12-19 age population has received their first vaccine dose, and health experts believe that number will continue to increase in the coming weeks, helping the state’s overall vaccination rate climb closer to herd immunity levels.

“We’ve seen a big wave of children 12 and older getting vaccinated,” said Mid Coast Hospital Community Health Coordinator Jessie Chalmers. “Usually kids aren’t excited to get a shot, but they know this is their ticket to in-person school and activities. The kids are really coming through.”

Morse High School senior Gabriel Croteau, 18, received his second dose of the Pfizer vaccine Wednesday. He said he chose to get vaccinated to protect his at-risk grandmother who has severe asthma that runs in his family.

“I’m a grandma’s boy,” said Croteau. “She has a hard time breathing as it is and it’d be bad if she got sick. It’s good to know I have the vaccine; it gives me peace of mind.”

Croteau said he also plans to work at Bath Iron Works after graduating, and being vaccinated will help protect him in a shipyard that has struggled to stymie the spread of COVID-19 in recent months.

Since March 2020, BIW has reported 714 COVID-19 cases as of Thursday, according to the company’s website. Of those, two cases have been reported so far this month and close to 200 cases were reported last month.

Mark Werner, 18, also a senior at Morse, agreed that being fully vaccinated “gives me peace of mind” as he moves on to college in the fall.

“At college, you don’t have to wear a mask if you’re fully vaccinated and you don’t have to worry about getting (COVD-19) now,” said Werner.

Healthcare workers wait for more RSU 1 students to arrive to get vaccinate in the Morse High School gym. The clinic distributed about 100 vaccines, most of which were second doses, Wednesday. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

Roughly 100 vaccines, administered by Mid Coast Hospital, were distributed to RSU 1 students at Morse High School’s second vaccine clinic, most of which were second doses. However, RSU 1 Assistant Superintendent Katie Joseph said school nurses haven’t yet determined how many students in total have been vaccinated.

The Brunswick School District offered vaccine clinics, the second of which took place on Thursday, which administered roughly 100 vaccines to district students, according to Superintendent Phil Potenziano.

Maine School Administrative District 75, serving Topsham, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham and Harpswell, didn’t return requests for comment Thursday on how many of its students have been vaccinated thus far.

“Overall, the adolescent response in Maine has been pretty robust,” said Dr. Deborah Hagler, a pediatrician with Mid Coast Pediatrics in Brunswick. “Most of the adolescents I’ve been talking to are either enthusiastic to get it or have already gotten it.”

Hagler said Mid Coast Hospital is “strongly encouraging” adolescents to get vaccinated, both to protect themselves and those around them, and to help extinguish the virus altogether. She said older adolescents are capable of transmitting the virus like adults and healthcare experts have found the longer the virus can exist in a community, the more of a chance it has to mutate and spread, making it harder to fight.

“It’s like embers in a forest fire that give it the chance to restart and spread,” said Hagler. “As long as a virus has a host, it has a chance to mutate, spread and come roaring back and we have to keep chasing it.”

Since March 2020 when the pandemic reached Maine, 1,471 people in Sagadahoc County have tested positive for COVID-19 and 11 have died, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Within Cumberland County, 17,180 people have tested positive and 197 people have died as of Thursday.

Statewide, 68,449 Mainers have tested positive for COVID-19 since March 2020 and 843 have died, according to the Maine CDC.

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