PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine expanded eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccinations to everyone age 50 and older on Tuesday.
The state is using age-based tiers to apportion the limited number of COVID-19 vaccines it has access to. Everyone age 16 and older will be eligible on April 19.
The office of Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, said more than 590,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Maine. More than a quarter of the state’s population has received at least a first dose.
Only Maine residents are eligible to receive a vaccine in Maine at the moment, state health authorities said.
Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Nirav Shah said expanding the eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines is a critical step in the state's fight against the virus.
“We are making progress, and today's effort to vaccinate those 50 and over is another step to continue our forward momentum,” Shah said.
In other pandemic-related news:
The average number of daily new cases of the coronavirus in Maine continued to rise Tuesday.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 167.14 on March 7 to 205.14 on March 21. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Maine did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 0.67 on March 7 to 0.57 on March 21.
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported more than 48,000 positive cases of the virus in the state and a total of 731 deaths.
Maine health officials say all of the precautions aimed at protecting people from the coronavirus may be contributing to a mild flu season.
There have been only three hospitalizations and no deaths among the 136 influenza cases recorded so far, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last year at this point, the state had already had 36 deaths, 81 outbreaks, 494 hospitalizations and 10,000 cases, the Portland Press Herald reported.
Over the last five years, flu-related deaths have ranged from a high of 82 in the 2017-18 season to a low of 29 in 2018-19.
The state also had fewer reported cases of Lyme disease in 2020, but the correlation with the pandemic is a little less clear. Cases fell by nearly 50% to 1,115, the Portland Press Herald reported.
Shah said Lyme disease, which is spread by ticks, could have fallen because of several factors, some of which are related to the pandemic. They include the possibility that more people stayed indoors, and that some potential Lyme sufferers declined to seek treatment because of the possibility of being exposed to coronavirus at a hospital or urgent care facility, he said.
“We have seen, across the health care system, there is an avoidance and reluctance to seek health care, so that's a possibility as well,” Shah said.
However, another reason could be ecological, Shah said. The dry stretch of the summer could have held back ticks from seeking a host.