Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks at a news conference, Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in Augusta. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine will help employers, churches and other organizations host on-site COVID-19 vaccination clinics as part of a continued effort to ensure access to vaccines in more rural areas, officials said Wednesday.

Maine continues to have among the highest vaccination rates of any state, with more than 63 percent of eligible people aged 12 and older having received at least one vaccine dose. But rates continue to vary widely between geographies, and the rate of people getting newly vaccinated has slowed in the past few weeks after an initial rush in demand.

The new vaccination program is free of charge. Any organization — such as a school, workplace or house of worship — can apply online, provided that they have at least 10 people who are willing and available to be vaccinated, Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said Wednesday. The state will then connect the group with health care providers who can provide an on-site clinic.

“The form that we’re opening up allows folks of many different stripes — faith communities, workplaces, etc. — to raise their hands and say, ‘We want to host a clinic,’” said Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “and then we will help them orchestrate that.”

He noted the agency had already had success partnering with faith organizations in Lewiston to administer vaccines after religious services. The addition of similar clinics reflects a further shift in Maine’s vaccination strategy away from large-scale sites toward smaller locations that are easier to access.

“We’re not just expecting people to come to the site. We’re trying to move those sites to where the people are,” Lambrew said.