Maine on Tuesday reported 862 new cases of COVID-19 and 12 additional deaths over a three-day period.

On Tuesday night, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved giving the two-shot Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine regimen to children 5 to 11. Pharmacies, doctor’s offices and school clinics in Maine are expected to begin administering the vaccine to that age group as early as this week.

“I encourage parents to talk to their children’s pediatricians about the importance of getting their kids vaccinated as soon as possible to protect their health, to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our classrooms and communities, and to help us turn the tide on this pandemic,” Gov. Janet Mills said in a statement Tuesday night.

Hospitalizations also increased Tuesday as the pandemic continues to hang on in Maine, driven largely by the virus spreading through unvaccinated populations.

Because the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention does not report cases over the weekend, Tuesday’s case counts reflect cases recorded Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Since the pandemic began, Maine has logged 105,121 cases of COVID-19, and 1,179 deaths.

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The seven-day average of daily new cases stood at 467 on Tuesday, compared to 462.1 a week ago and 607.7 a month ago. Cumberland County – the most vaccinated county in Maine – had the lowest rate, a seven-day average of 156.3 per 100,000 population.

Maine’s least vaccinated county, Somerset, had the highest seven-day COVID-19 case average, at 497.2 per 100,000 population. Cumberland County’s vaccination rate is 79.9 percent of its total population, while Somerset County’s immunization rate is 59.9 percent. The state vaccination rate is 70 percent.

Maine’s overall virus prevalence is 17th-highest in the country, with 35 daily new cases per 100,000 population, on a seven-day average, compared to 23 per 100,000 nationally. The virus is primarily spreading through unvaccinated populations, with 88 percent of all cases since vaccines became widely available occurring among those who have yet to get their shots, according to the Maine CDC.

Hospitalizations have also increased, with 216 Maine people hospitalized for COVID-19 on Tuesday, up from 203 two weeks ago. On Tuesday, 79 COVID-19 patients were in critical care, with 41 on a ventilator. About 70 percent of hospitalizations are among unvaccinated patients.

Pfizer’s vaccine for children 5-11 is one-third the dose given to teens and adults.

“Maine’s initial allocation (this week) of COVID-19 vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds is expected to be 33,900 doses, which would be enough to provide first doses to approximately 42 percent of Maine residents who would become eligible if the U.S. CDC authorizes the Pfizer vaccine for that age group,” said Robert Long, Maine CDC spokesman. “Pharmacies and federal programs in Maine may receive additional doses. Subsequent allocations are expected to arrive on a weekly basis.”

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Dr. Nirav Shah, Maine CDC director, referred in a series of tweets Monday to the science behind the vaccine for elementary-aged children, saying the risk of a complication that has been discussed in the media – myocarditis, or heart inflammation – is very rare.

“The risk of myocarditis is much lower from a vaccine than from COVID,” Shah said. “The risk of myocarditis from a COVID-19 (infection) is around 150 per 100,000 patients with COVID. So the risk of myocarditis is about 15 times lower from the vaccine than from COVID itself.”

Shah said the vaccine is safe and effective for adults and children.

“Every single pediatrician, family doctor and nurse practitioner I have spoken with says that they will vaccinate their own children as soon as the vaccine is available,” Shah said. “These are the professionals entrusted to care for children, so why not trust them on this?”

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