Maine is adopting an "age-based approach" to COVID-19 vaccine eligibility that will allow residents 60 years and older to make appointments starting next week, Gov. Janet Mills announced Friday.
According to Mills, the new strategy prioritizes older people who are more likely to get seriously ill or die from COVID-19. As part of the move, Maine will expand eligibility to residents 60 years and older starting March 3.
"A review of recent data by the Maine CDC indicates that age is a significant predictor of whether someone will become seriously sick or is more likely to die if they contract COVID-19,” Mills said in the statement.
“Taking that into consideration, along with the clarity, predictability, and relative ease of implementation, I believe this approach is the best option to save lives and ensure the vaccine can be administered to as many people as quickly and as efficiently as possible."
The planned schedule for eligibility is below:
- March 3: Eligibility expands to residents age 60 and older
- April: Eligibility expands to age 50 and older
- May: Eligibility expands to age 40 and older
- June: Eligibility expands to age 30 and older
- July and beyond: Ages 29 and under, including children pending authorization of a vaccine for them
Officials say 98% of deaths from COVID-19 in Maine have been people age 50 and older. Older residents also had a higher likelihood of having underlying medical conditions, including cancer or lung disease.
Maine has the oldest population in the country by median age, the statement noted.
The move comes as officials hope to receive 30,080 new doses of the vaccine in the first week of March from the federal government. They say the state will continue to vaccinate those who were already eligible, including health care workers and long-term care residents.
The governor also has directed the state's Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Education to open more vaccination appointments for K-12 school staff who are eligible for the shot through the age-based system.
Mills noted that the state is running the "largest mass vaccination effort in history." As of Friday, the state has administered 328,357 doses of the vaccine.