Areas of lower vaccine use give virus ‘room to run’ in Maine
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — About three-quarters of Maine’s eligible population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, but four counties remain below two-thirds.
Franklin, Oxford, Piscataquis and Somerset counties are below that threshold, according to data provided by the office of Democratic Gov. Janet Mills. Somerset County has the lowest percentage in the state, at a little less than 61%.
The state’s immunization rates reflect a divide between urban and rural Maine. The four counties with lagging rates are largely rural. Cumberland County, which is the location of Portland and the most urban county in the state, is above 85% vaccinated.
State health officials have said they are working to improve access to vaccinations and testing in rural parts of the state. That effort has included working with chain pharmacies and health care centers around the state, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Nirav Shah said Wednesday.
Maine as a whole has one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the country. Mills said Tuesday that a million people in the state have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. The state’s population is about 1.3 million.
The state is administering close to 5,000 doses per day, Shah said. That is an increase from a week ago, when it was 2,700 per day, and it’s attributable in part to the administration of booster doses, he said.
“Boosters are not crowding out access to first or second doses. That’s a good thing,” Shah said. “The bottom line is this — vaccines remain available in the state, free of charge, and in most cases you don’t even need to schedule.”
Still, cases of the virus in Maine have continued to rise in recent weeks. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 480.71 on Sept. 20 to 595.43 on Oct. 4. Pockets of low vaccination rates have given the virus “room to run,” Shah said.
The AP is using data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering to measure outbreak caseloads and deaths across the United States.
Maine public health officials have said the state has been the site of 1,065 deaths and more than 93,000 cases of the virus since the beginning of the pandemic.
There were 166 people in a hospital in Maine because of COVID-19, a decrease of about 60 from two weeks ago, Shah said. There were two children under the age of 18 in Maine hospitals with COVID-19, he said.