Maine health officials reported 142 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, and two additional deaths, as a major pharmacy chain prepares to join the vaccination effort.
Walgreens is now accepting vaccination appointments this week in Maine and 22 other states as part of a partnership with the federal government. Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies have already been immunizing residents. To check about making an appointment at Walgreens, go to Walgreens.com/ScheduleVaccine.
For now, appointments are for those 70 and older, although that is expected to change soon, perhaps as soon as next week. Maine officials have said in early March, those in the 65-to-69 age group likely will start getting vaccinated.
Maine has given 301,705 shots, according to data published on Tuesday, including 202,761 first doses and 98,944 second doses. Slightly more than 15 percent of Maine’s 1.3 million population has received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Overall, Maine has recorded 43,736 cases of COVID-19 and 660 deaths. Maine Gov. Janet Mills on Tuesday ordered flags to be lowered to half staff through Friday to honor the 500,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
Recent trends continue to be positive, with the seven-day average of daily new cases at 140.1 on Tuesday, compared to 164.7 a week ago and 484.6 a month ago. The seven-day averages now are similar to early November, prior to the winter surge that resulted in peaks of more than 600 cases daily in mid-January. Currently, there are 67 hospitalized in Maine, including 25 in intensive care. At its peak in mid-January, 207 people were hospitalized in Maine with COVID-19.
Although no firm timetable has been set, Mills and Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew have said that Maine would likely move to begin immunizing the 65-to-69 age group once two-thirds of the 70 and older population had received their first shots. That milestone could be reached next week.
While the state is still constrained by vaccine supplies, shipments have increased, with Maine receiving about 36,000 doses this week when combining the state vaccination program with shots being offered at Walmart, Sam’s Club and Walgreens. That’s about double the weekly doses Maine was receiving a few week ago.
Even more vaccines could soon be coming Maine’s way. Johnson & Johnson is on the cusp of an emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration, with approval possible later this week.
Company officials on Tuesday said they will be able to deliver 20 million doses by the end of March. If those timelines are met, Maine could soon receive an additional 10,000 or more doses per week from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine would only require one dose, in comparison to the two doses needed for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines currently in use. The Biden administration is expected to ramp up shipments in the coming weeks, and some national public health experts have predicted a near-doubling of weekly vaccine shipments in the United States by the end of March, only taking into account for Moderna and Pfizer production increases, and not yet including Johnson & Johnson supplies.
This story will be updated.