Covid boosters now available in Maine as cases tick up from summer levels
Earlier this month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged everyone 6 months and older to get the updated vaccine for COVID-19, a recommendation that comes as case counts in Maine have risen since the summer.
“Vaccination remains the best protection against COVID-19-related hospitalization and death. Vaccination also reduces your chance of suffering the effects of Long COVID, which can develop during or following acute infection and last for an extended duration,” the federal health agency wrote.
In Maine, cases of COVID-19 are below the levels they reached this time last year but have increased over the last 90 days. In late June and early July, the Maine CDC was reporting positive test results of COVID-19 in the single digits some days. In September, however, the positive test result count has been more than 50 on the majority of days and has topped out at more than 100.
Hospitalizations from the virus have also risen since late June, when there were a little more than 20 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Maine. The most recent data available shows 60 hospitalized COVID-19 patients across the state.
In an email, Maine CDC spokesperson Lindsay Hammes confirmed that cases have trended upward in Maine since the summer but noted that the data reported by the agency is an incomplete gauge given the shift to at-home COVID-19 tests. As a result, she said hospitalization rates and death counts are a more accurate measure of the severity of the virus in Maine.
The new vaccine is available from both Pfizer and Moderna. To schedule a vaccine appointment in Maine, visit this page. Some of the listed pharmacies didn’t yet have the updated vaccine while others Monday had a limited number of appointments available in early October, although finding an immediate slot appears to be difficult.
Hammes acknowledged that the availability of the updated vaccine is currently limited in Maine. However, she said the agency expects appointment slots to ramp up in the coming months, predicting that most people should be able get the new vaccine in time for Thanksgiving and the December holiday season.
Polling shows that there could be significant demand for the new vaccine nationwide, with 54% of respondents reporting that they are interested in receiving an updated shot. If that many people get the new vaccine, it would represent a large improvement over the uptake of the booster shot last year, which 75% of Americans did not receive. In Maine, 31% of people got that booster shot.
Public health advocates are concerned that uptake of the updated vaccine might still be low, particularly among vulnerable populations, because of the lack of a widespread public health campaign to promote immunization like the nation saw in late 2020 and throughout 2021 after the first vaccine doses were approved.
As far as local efforts, the Maine CDC said along with engaging with the media, “we also expect marketing campaigns to launch shortly, reminding Maine people that getting vaccinated is the best way to protect your health,” Hammes said.
Globally, almost 7 million people have died from COVID-19 and over a million have died in the U.S. alone, according to estimates from the World Health Organization, although those figures likely represent a significant undercount. Furthermore, a chunk of virus cases have developed into long COVID, defined by persistent symptoms that continue beyond four weeks, frustrating many patients who have found a lack of available resources and help for this ailment.
This story was updated with comments from the Maine CDC.