News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, April 29, 2021 and Island Ad-Vantages, April 29, 2021 and The Weekly Packet, April 29, 2021
J&J ‘pause’ dampens local demand for vaccine
More shots available than people who want them?

COVID-19 Local Updates Fall/Winter 2020
Click here to see the full COVID-19 Local Updates Fall/Winter 2020.

by Leslie Landrigan

On April 13, 143 people had signed up for 100 doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine available the next day at the town’s pop-up clinic. One hundred people got on the schedule, 43 on the waiting list.

Two weeks later, only a third of that number had signed up for Stonington’s next clinic on April 29.

The town had canceled the April 14 clinic because the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended a temporary halt to the Johnson & Johnson shot. Six people who’d taken it developed a rare kind of blood clot. Ten days later, the CDC said the Johnson & Johnson shot was OK.

“It broke the momentum,” said Deputy Town Clerk Bridget Brophy, who works with Northern Light Homecare & Hospice to set up Stonington’s pop-up clinics. “A lot of people are gun-shy.”

Brophy said in a phone interview she’s struggling to find people to come to the clinic, even though the two-shot Moderna vaccine will be administered, not the J&J.

Sedgwick and Deer Isle also canceled their clinics because of the J&J pause and are now directing residents to Stonington.

“Seems like we’re at or near the point where availability of vaccines is exceeding demand locally,” Sedgwick’s First Selectman Michael Sheahan said in an email.

No more masks outside

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of Maine CDC, said in a virtual news conference on April 27 that the J&J pause caused a decrease in the daily volume of vaccinations. But, he said, with the resumption of the J&J vaccine on Saturday, the number of people getting vaccinated every day is ticking up. Shah said 43 percent of Maine residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Because of that, Shah said Maine will lift the requirement on May 1 that people traveling to Maine from other states get tested or quarantine. “Times are changing because of vaccinations,” Shah said.

Maine also ended the requirement that people wear masks outdoors, except when it’s hard to stay away from other people, Gov. Janet Mills announced in a news release on April 27.

Back to school

School Union 76 and 93 students returned to their classrooms after spring vacation despite an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in schools.

People are still safer on average in schools than outside, Union 93 Superintendent Mark Hurvitt said in an email to parents.

Over the previous 30 days, new cases for students and staff in Maine rose to 45 per 10,000, still lower than 74 per 10,000 for the general population, he noted.

“This is good news for us in Union 93, but it’s not fantastic news in general, as rates continue to creep up, mostly among the 20’s population,” he wrote.