Maryland resident Sedona Lockhart was visiting family during the holidays and decided to get her COVID-19 booster at the York County Emergency Management Agency clinic in Sanford. County officials say people are usually in and out of the clinic in 25 to 35 minutes, including the 15-minute wait time after receiving a shot. Above, Jon Gay, a firefighter and paramedic with the York Village Fire Department, administers the vaccine. Tammy Wells photo

SANFORD — Jon Gay verified Sedona Lockhart’s information, swabbed her arm, and then deftly administered a booster dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

After entering the York County Emergency Management Agency clinic in south Sanford, Lockhart, who lives in Maryland, was asked standard COVID-19 symptom questions, filled out paperwork, and was ready for her shot.

“I got the first two in Maryland,” said Lockhart, explaining she was in York County on vacation visiting family, and since it was time, decided to get her booster at the county-run clinic.

The clinic is administering about 600 to 800 vaccines a day, and just before Christmas nearly 19,000 shots had been given since reopening in September, said Megan Arsenault, deputy director for the York County Emergency Management Agency.

The clinic is located at the Center for Shopping in south Sanford, 1364 Main St. The site began operation in partnership with Southern Maine Health Care in early March, administering 39,000 shots by the time it closed at the end of June.

In early September, the York County Emergency Management Agency re-opened the clinic for first and second doses and booster shots. The center is staffed by a team of reserve employees working per diem and by volunteers. It requires about 30 to 40 people a day to operate the facility, which is open 1 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3 to 7 p.m. Fridays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

The walk-in clinic offers Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, along with boosters, and is open to those 5 years old and older.

It is a busy place, and on the first opening day after the Christmas holiday on Dec. 28, there were lines out the door of people seeking shots — a sign of pent-up demand after the clinic was closed for a few days during the holidays. On average, people spend a total of 25 to 35 minutes at the clinic, said York County Emergency Management Agency Director Art Cleaves. Sometimes, it can be less, he said, and even though the line was lengthy on Dec. 28, it moved quickly.

According to the Maine Centers for Disease Control, as of Jan. 2, 69.8 percent of York County’s population of 207,641 had received their final regular dose of COVID-19 vaccine, a bit less than the 71.37 percent of the population who had received them statewide. And though not broken down into a percentage, 69,770 York County residents had received a booster shot, the CDC said.

In addition to the clinic in Sanford, York County Emergency Management Agency has, on a limited basis, conducted off-site clinics in some locations — earlier in December. Cleaves told county commissioners that a clinic in Kittery that day resulted in administration of 576 vaccinations.

A line forms outside the York County Emergency Management Agency vaccine clinic in Sanford on Dec. 28. County officials said the number of people was a sign of pent-up demand for the vaccine after the clinic was closed a few days during the Christmas holiday. Hours are back to normal: 1 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays; 3 to 7 p.m. on Fridays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Tammy Wells photo

In light of the demand for vaccinations, and the continuing pandemic, county commissioners voted to extend its civil emergency through March.

Among those in line for a vaccine on Dec. 28 was Ashley Lemelin of Shapleigh.

“I had been on the fence, but now it’s a policy at work,” said Lemelin, who said the weekly testing option was expensive, so she opted for the vaccine. “My job is more important, so I felt it was a good time,” she said.

Her boyfriend, Brandon Ward, was in line for a booster shot. Ward said he disagrees with any mandate that privately-owned companies require vaccinations. He said he got vaccinated in the spring so he could see a sick family member.

As for Lockhart, who plans to pursue a medical career in neurology, after she received her shot, she moved to the next station in the clinic — a seating area where those receiving a vaccine wait 15 minutes before leaving, and then she was done.

Gay, a firefighter paramedic at York Village Fire Department, is among the host of people who often help out at the clinic.

“I enjoy the interaction, speaking with and meeting the public,” Gay said.

“We have a really great team,” said Arsenault.

Lockhart is not the only person who lives outside York County who has received their vaccination at the county clinic.

While most do live in York County, Arsenault said the clinic’s 16 to 20 daily vaccinators have administered shots to people from as far north as Bangor, and to those who live in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and other New England states. Some who are in the area from New York or California have received vaccinations at the clinic, as have people from other countries.

“We get a lot of calls from out of state,” said Arsenault.

On Dec. 28, children receiving their vaccine got a bit of a treat— each who wanted one got a stuffed animal — donated after a Christmas toy drive in southern York County. Those involved, like Gay, thought they would be a hit at the clinic.

They were, as evidenced by one young fellow who promptly hugged a new, cuddly cat.

“It’s a good atmosphere here,” said Arsenault. “It is really a special place.”

The York County COVID-19 vaccination clinic in south Sanford is busy, administering 600 to 800 shots a day, county officials said. Tammy Wells photo

Cleaves agreed.

“I’m most proud of how the individuals come together as a team and each individual is dedicated to the purpose of this mission — helping people be safe and hopefully putting this pandemic behind us,” he said. “When you walk into the clinic the thing that is most ‘contagious’ is the enthusiasm the team has for patient safety and ensuring the patients have a good experience. And of course, I’m most proud of the individuals who come through that door to become part of the solution to this pandemic.”

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