This weekend, Maine reached a vaccination milestone.
The state's Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported on its dashboard that more than 50% of eligible Mainers -- all residents 16 and older -- had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. At the same time, more than a third of all residents had become fully vaccinated.
During a visit to a mass vaccine clinic at the Portland Expo on Friday, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said a lack of vaccine hesitancy in the state was the major factor for Maine’s consistently high standing on lists of states ranked by percentage of population vaccinated.
Full coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it impacts you
“Credit goes to Maine people,” Shah said, adding that “at a time when other states, from Alaska to Mississippi, are running into wall of hesitancy, we’re not seeing that. We’re seeing urgency in Maine.”
According to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker, Maine was first in the nation for states ranked by percentage of population fully vaccinated.
On Monday, it had fallen to second place behind New Mexico for full vaccinations, though it was still first among all New England states.
It was third on the tracker in terms of states that had given a first dose, behind New Hampshire and Connecticut.
For people out and about Monday in Portland, news of more than half of eligible people receiving vaccines was met with encouragement.
“There’s a certain amount of stress reduction when I hear those numbers,” said Louise Cormier, of Cumberland, who was meeting a friend from Rhode Island for a picnic lunch on the city’s Eastern Promenade.
“We are here today because we had two vaccines, we’re fully vaccinated, we can get together and not wear masks, enjoy being out here and it makes a huge difference,” Cormier added.
Out for a takeout picnic lunch with their children, Brunswick residents Chris and Molly Kellogg agreed.
“It’s encouraging. I’d like to see as many people as possible getting shorts,” Chris Kellogg said.
“It fees like we’re making progress,” said Molly Kellogg, adding that her family was looking forward to “seeing the people we love, being able to gather with our family that we’ve been apart from for so long.”
For one person who said he was not ready to get the vaccine, there is a sense that, while a large number of Mainers are choosing to get shots, there is not a wave of discrimination against those choosing not to be vaccinated.
“I might eventually when more information comes out,” said Jacob Vincent, of Portland, adding that “you have your choice and I don’t feel like too many people are discriminating.”
Despite Maine’s vaccine progress, a recent local spike in cases and hospitalizations does have public health officials keeping a careful eye on variants and the virus’ lingering presence.
“We’re in a situation where case counts are rising, positivity rates are going up and hospitalizations are going up,” Shah said.
Shah said he believes families traveling over schools' April vacation week are likely not a “leading candidate” for an increase in cases.
Instead, he said, “the leading candidate seems to be a function of variants that are more transmissible.”