PRESQUE ISLE — Northern Light AR Gould Hospital will kick-off its first community vaccine clinics next week for people age 70 or older in collaboration with Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle. Day-long clinics will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 27, and Friday, Jan. 29, resulting in 840 people in this age category getting their first dose of vaccine.
“We are excited to be moving into this category of community vaccinations,” said Greg LaFrancois, hospital president. “We have been vaccinating our own workers and other healthcare providers in the community for a few weeks now, and it is rewarding to now have the go ahead from the Maine CDC to start vaccinating the elderly in our community.”
To be able to make these clinics a reality, the hospital needed a community partner, and they did not have to look far to make that happen.
“Northern Maine Community College has been an incredible partner for us during this entire pandemic. Tim Crowley and his team stepped up time and time again to help us in numerous ways. And when we made this ask, they were once again quick to give us, and our community, the support that was needed,” said LaFrancois.
The College will be opening their campus facilities for the location of the community clinics, which will take place in the Wellness Center and gymnasium. NMCC healthcare students will also be helping in the clinics.
“We’re ready to support the hospital every way we can,” stated NMCC President Timothy Crowley. “Community health is one of our priorities, and our gymnasium and wellness center will be put to good use in the coming months. Our nursing faculty and the Nursing and Allied Health students have been working with the local hospitals since the beginning of the pandemic and are ready for the next phase of this challenge.”
Individuals must pre-register to take part in a vaccination clinic. Due to the high demand as well as the logistics around handling the vaccines, walk-ins cannot be accommodated. While the registration slots for next week’s clinics are all full, more clinics will be added on a weekly basis. Each Monday, after learning of their vaccine allotment for the week, the hospital will open new clinics based on that information. The hope is to hold at least one clinic each week, but vaccine availability will determine how they can proceed.
For these first two clinics, registration was available on-line only, and the 840 spots filled in just a couple of hours. Work is underway to add a telephone registration option as well for those who do not have internet access. That phone option is anticipated to be launched before new clinics are added; however, online registration will still be the fastest, preferred way to register.
Improvements have also already been made on the online registration site. When it first launched, many people found they got through the entire registration process only to learn no appointments were available. Availability of slots by vaccination location will now be posted for people to see before they start to register. And once they start, the time slot they select will be held for them while they continue through the registration process.
When preparing to register, whether by phone or online, people should be prepared with the following: social security number, insurance or Medicare information, and the name and phone number for an emergency contact person. The vaccine itself is free but a small charge to cover the cost of administration will be billed to people’s insurance.
At this time, community clinics will be for those 70 or over only. The Maine CDC is in the process of determining a matrix for medical conditions that may make a person under age 70 at higher risk for complications associated with COVID-19. Once that information is finalized and the CDC gives the go-ahead, clinics will be expanded to offer vaccines to this group as well. The time frame for when that may happen is not known at this point.
Community members are encouraged to look at the hospital’s website each Monday to learn about clinics that may be scheduled for the week: http://www.northernlighthealth.org/Resources/COVID-19.
Since two clinics are already scheduled for next week, no new clinics are anticipated to be added on Monday, Jan. 25. The next update should be on Monday, Feb. 1.
“We ask that individuals not call their primary care office or the hospital to try to register. The only option for registering at this time is online. As soon as a call center is ready to handle telephone registrations, we will be posting that number for the public. People cannot register through their provider’s office or directly through the hospital.