News Feature

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Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, May 7, 2021 and The Weekly Packet, May 7, 2021
More change in the vaccine landscape
Out-of-staters eligible now; young teens will be soon

by Leslie Landrigan

Non-residents can now get vaccinated in Maine, and soon young teenagers can, too, as the rules and places for getting a COVID-19 shot continue to change.

Northern Light Health is phasing out its mass vaccination clinic in Bangor, instead offering walk-in appointments at the Eastern Maine Medical Center Monday through Saturday, starting May 11. The health system is also preparing to administer vaccines in its doctor’s offices, including at Northern Light Primary Care in Castine and Stonington.

With nearly half of all eligible Mainers vaccinated, state officials and health care providers are trying to make it easier for everyone else to get shots.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, announced on May 3 that out-of-staters could get a vaccine in Maine, effective immediately.

“If you’re over the age of 16 and you’re in Maine, you can get a shot,” Shah said in a virtual news conference.

Soon, teenagers 12 to 15 can get a shot, too. Approval of the Pfizer vaccine for the younger teenagers is expected within a week, according to news reports. Now, teenagers 16 and older can get a Pfizer vaccine, though not the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Shah gave two reasons for letting nonresidents get shots. First, visitors and summer residents are coming to Maine, even as college students are returning to the state. Second, more vaccine is available, he said.

“Removing the residency requirement makes it easier for people who give shots and for people who get shots,” Shah said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many teenagers to learn at home, away from their friends.

“Think about what this year has been like for our students,” said Dr. James Jarvis, Northern Light Health’s medical specialist, in a virtual news conference. “My message to parents is to strongly and seriously consider getting their 12- to 15-year-old, their 12- to 17-year-old, vaccinated.”

The Pfizer vaccine requires ultra-cold storage, but Jarvis said Northern Light has been planning for its rollout to teens.

People will soon be able to get COVID-19 shots the way they get their flu shot—in the doctor’s office, Jarvis said. That may help persuade people to get the vaccine.

“Sometimes that’s what it takes, someone you’re familiar with,” Jarvis said.

Northern Light expects to administer its last first shot at the Cross Center on May 6. It will continue to give people their second shot until May 27. The Northern Light clinic at the former Family Dollar in Ellsworth will continue to administer vaccines, as well as Northern Light Blue Hill Hospital, according to Matt Marston, associate vice president of Northern Light Pharmacy.

Pop-up clinics have restarted locally. Surry held a clinic on May 6, allowing walk-ins, and Brooksville will hold one Saturday, May 8. Both are at their respective elementary schools. Deer Isle will hold a pop-up clinic on Thursday, May 13.