AUGUSTA, Maine — A top Maine public health official said Monday that the state needs to consistently receive tens of thousands more coronavirus vaccines than it currently gets every week to meet its goal of inoculating older people and frontline workers by February.
The state is gradually making its way through a first eligible group, which has included hospital health care workers and long-term care facility residents since December and expanded to outpatient clinics and independent practitioners this week. Those efforts have been hampered as the state has received less vaccines than it expects each week.
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Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav Shah has stated a goal of vaccinating the next group — Mainers over the age of 75 and frontline, essential workers — by February, depending on the number of doses received. To make a large dent in that group, Maine would need to receive and administer 50,000 doses a week, a Shah spokesperson said.
Shah told reporters Monday that amount would alleviate “supply constraints” the state has been facing. But he cautioned that the estimate could change as the state moves through its phases.
That kind of distribution may be a long way off. The state has been increasing its vaccine orders over the last three weeks, but those requests have come in under expected levels since the federal government first sent fewer doses than expected last month.
The state most notably received 40 percent less than what it expected during its second week of vaccinations. Subsequent orders have not been as harshly reduced, but the state ordered 19,125 vaccines for last week and only received 18,825, Shah said last week.
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The Maine CDC director has said he does not know why the vaccine allocations are increasing or why states are getting less vaccines than expected.
Distribution for the next phase could have different complications than the current step. While most health care workers are being vaccinated at their workplaces and pharmacy chains have contracts with the federal government to vaccinate people working and living in long-term care facilities, older Mainers will likely need to work with doctors to get scheduled.
Despite those setbacks, Maine has vaccinated 2.45 percent of its population, with only five states inoculating a larger share of their people, according to a Bloomberg News tracker. It has used 62 percent of its allotted doses, which is also among the highest share among states.