Starting Thursday and for the next 10 days, the place to be in Somerset County will be the Skowhegan State Fair.

Yet in a stunning absence of leadership, the largest annual event in Maine’s least-vaccinated county will be without a COVID vaccination clinic – an inexcusable failure at a time when it is clear that broad vaccination is our best route out of the pandemic.

At this time in our fight against COVID, when everyone who is eligible and made vaccination a priority is now protected, every effort must be made to reach those who remain unvaccinated. They must be given every opportunity to get a shot, particularly in those areas where vaccination rates remain dangerously low.

Somerset County is one such area. With fewer than 49 percent of its residents having received a final dose as of Tuesday, it trailed every other county. In Cumberland County, the most-vaccinated county, more than 72 percent of residents have had their shot.

Catching up with the rest of the state should be a top priority. Yet it hardly seems like it was on anyone’s mind at all, even as the county toggles back and forth between “moderate” and “substantial” transmission amid a resurgence of the virus nationwide.

The fair president told the Morning Sentinel that there were no “serious talks” about holding a clinic at the fair, which expects about 150,000 people to attend. The town manager said town officials had not discussed the matter either.


A spokesman for the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention told the Sentinel that state officials are helping set up clinics only when they are asked, including by fair officials.

That is simply not enough. When local leaders fail to make responsible decisions, as happened in this case, the state has to step in and do the right thing. They should have at least tried.

Instead, they are missing an opportunity. This isn’t about whether the Skowhegan fair is safe – the fair is mostly outdoors. It’s about reaching people who haven’t been vaccinated but might if they came across a convenient option.

The Bangor State Fair, held last week, had an hour-long clinic involving pharmacy students. A fair in Wisconsin administered nearly 200 doses over the weekend. Another in Pennsylvania did about 60 over three days.

Those aren’t huge numbers. But with only stragglers left among those eligible for the COVID vaccine, it’s still progress.

In Maine and nationwide, demand for the vaccine slowed after the initial rush. But there is evidence now that with the virus surging again, some people who were hesitant about getting the vaccine are changing their minds, and the number of shots each day is beginning to climb, though slowly.


These folks won’t get their shots in one big group like when vaccines were first available. Instead, they’ll get them in dribs and drabs, when someone they know gets it or when they find it convenient.

That means you have to meet those who remain unvaccinated where they are, and be ready when they are.

In Maine, that mostly means having shots available in our rural areas where the vaccination rates are low – close to the levels in the South where outbreaks are going on unfettered.

The lack of a vaccination clinic at the Skowhegan fair is a lost opportunity. It’s a shame – every dose protects more people and makes our communities safer.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.