James Jarvis, senior physician executive of Northern Light Health's COVID-19 response, gives a tour of the new vaccine clinic at the Cross Insurance Center on Feb. 1. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

Northern Light Health will expand its mass vaccination site at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on Saturday, adding the ability to vaccinate 1,000 more Mainers per day, Senior Physician Executive Dr. James Jarvis said Wednesday.

The hospital network will open a second vaccination “pod” inside the city-owned arena, adding 20 tables and increasing staffing from 100 to 130 per shift, Jarvis said. The addition will allow Northern Light Health to ramp up vaccination efforts if it receives more vaccine doses in the future, including if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves a new COVID-19 vaccine for use.

The enlargement from the potential 2,000 to 3,000 vaccines a day marks the first expansion for a site where officials hope 5,000 people a day will eventually be inoculated, six days a week. It will come less than two weeks after the site — the first mass vaccination site in Maine — opened on Feb. 2.

The site plans on vaccinating 1,100 to 1,200 people each this coming Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday, but would be able to handle 3,000 people daily if vaccine supplies allowed.

Soon, Mainers will also be able to sign up to get vaccines at 24 Walmart and Sam’s Club locations across the state that will begin vaccinating between 4,400 and 4,800 people a week as part of the federal government’s retail pharmacy program.

Jarvis welcomed that new program, but said he did not think it would make it unnecessary for Northern Light to eventually expand the Cross Center’s capacity to 5,000 daily vaccinations. He noted that Maine still had a long road ahead as it seeks to eventually vaccinate 1.3 million residents.

“This is just another addition to” the vaccination effort, Jarvis said, “so we can get as many people vaccinated in as short a time as possible.”

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