Roughly 200,000 new people are now eligible for the coronavirus vaccines in Maine as of Wednesday, when the state entered a new tier of its days-old age-based vaccination plan.
Maine residents aged 60-70 can now sign up to get the shots at all vaccine clinics in the state.
In addition, late Wednesday, Gov. Janet Mills announced she would allow “school staff and child care workers” of all ages, including teachers, to get COVID-19 vaccines at all of Maine’s federal pharmacy partner locations, which include certain Walmart, Walgreens and Hannaford stores.
Just days earlier, Mills had announced she would not allow teachers under 60 to receive the vaccines this week. She shifted course a day after President Joe Biden called on governors across the United States to get educators at least one dose of the shots by the end of this month.
“I share the President’s desire to vaccinate school staff and child care workers as quickly as possible, just as I want to see all Maine people vaccinated as quickly as possible,” said Mills in a news release.
Not only are more Mainers eligible for the vaccine, they have more options when it comes to where to get them.
Hannaford Supermarkets is set to offer the shots at 35 of its store pharmacies in the state this week.
A new mass vaccine site operated by MaineHealth is now open in Sanford, along with another one at Portland’s Expo, operated by Northern Light Health.
Northern Light Home and Hospice is also operating a clinic at the Maine mall in a space recently occupied by a Pier One Imports furniture store.
That clinic welcomed patients for the first time on Wednesday, which was a “coincidental” alignment with the 60 plus tier kickoff, according to Colleen Hilton, the senior vice president of continuing care at Northern Light Health.
“It’s a great feeling when we open it up because it gives people reassurance that maybe we’re going to get this pandemic in the rearview mirror instead of confronting every day what we’ve been confronting all year,” Hilton said.
One of the people agreeing with Hilton is Vilene Farina. She was one of the first people to receive a vaccine at the mall clinic during the first hour it opened on the first day she was eligible to get a vaccine as someone in the 60-70 year-old age bracket.
“I feel fantastic, I’ve been waiting for it,” she said.
Farina was willing to make the 45-minute drive to the clinic from her home in Lewiston without hesitation, she said, adding that she'd spent a good deal of time on Monday trying to sign up for an appointment.
“I’m computer savvy, so I had four links open in case one went down,” she said, explaining that she had to refill the appointment sign-up three times before it worked.
“You stick with it,” Farina said, calling receiving the vaccine a “relief” because she wants to hug people and visit her extended family again.
Her husband, who is in the 70 and older age bracket, is expected to receive his second dose of COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday.