PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Front-line health care workers were the the first people given the COVID-19 vaccine in Maine, the director of the state's Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.
The state is starting by providing vaccines to front-line health care workers and people in long-term care facilities. The first people received the vaccines at Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said.
More people were slated to receive the vaccine later in the day at Southern Maine Health Care in Biddeford, he said.
“We are off and running,” Shah said.
Some 150 caregivers at Maine Medical Center and Southern Maine Health Care were scheduled to be vaccinated on Tuesday, representatives for Maine Medical Center said. The first person to receive the shot was Kayla Mitchell, who treats COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit at Maine Medical Center.
“I’ve watched people suffer with this illness. I trust the science, and I trust that this is a solution," Mitchell said.
MaineHealth, which includes Maine Medical Center and Southern Maine Health Care, said vaccinations are set to begin at a third of its hospitals on Wednesday. That hospital is Mid Coast-Parkview Health in Brunswick.
A broad rollout of the vaccine to the general public will likely take place in late spring or early summer, Shah said. There will be more phases for at-risk groups before then, he said.
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 400 new cases of the virus on Tuesday.
The latest average positivity rate in Maine is 4.54%. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Maine the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test specimens using data from The COVID Tracking Project.
The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 2.4% on Nov. 30 to 4.54% on Dec. 14.
Public health authorities in Maine have reported 285 deaths from the virus and more than 16,700 cases of the virus since the pandemic began.
UNIVERSITY VACCINE PLAN
Maine's public university system said it plans to use a new task force to assist with distributing the coronavirus vaccine and recommending changes to the system's immunization requirements.
University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy is charged with appointing the Vaccine Planning and Partnership Task Force, university system officials said in a statement. The task force will also be responsible for “contributing to student and public awareness about the efficacy and safety of FDA-approved vaccines."
The task force will include University of Maine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy as its chair and it's scheduled to issue a report on Jan. 25.
“The most ambitious vaccination campaign in the history of the world is now underway,” Malloy said. “FDA-approved vaccines for COVID-19 will end the pandemic and restore normalcy if enough people choose to be immunized.