Maine is adopting an "age-based approach" to coronavirus vaccine eligibility that will allow residents 60 years and older to make appointments starting this coming week, Gov. Janet Mills announced Friday.
She said the new strategy prioritizes older people who are more likely to get seriously ill and die from COVID-19. As part of the move, Maine will expand vaccination eligibility to residents 60 years and older beginning Wednesday, 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 a 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: Residents age 60 and older can be vaccinated
- April: Residents age 50 and older can be vaccinated
- May: Residents age 40 and older can be vaccinated
- June: Residents age 30 and older can be vaccinated
- July and beyond: Residents age 29 and under, including children pending authorization of a vaccine for them, can be vaccinated
Officials say 98% of deaths from COVID-19 in Maine have been in people age 50 and older. Older residents also have a higher likelihood of having underlying medical conditions, including cancer or lung disease.
Maine has the oldest population in the country by median age, according to the state.
Friday's announcement came as state officials hoped to receive 30,080 new doses of the vaccine in the first week of March from the federal government. Officials said 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, officials said.
Mills added that the state is running the "largest mass vaccination effort in history." As of Friday, the state had administered 328,357 doses of the vaccine.