Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew speaks at the opening of a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic at a former horse racing track in Scarborough on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

AUGUSTA, Maine — The current rate of coronavirus vaccine distribution positions Maine to expand eligibility to residents age 65 and over in the first week of March, a top state health official said Thursday.

Maine’s next allocation of vaccines from the federal government will cover 21,475 people, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday. Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said the state expected that allocation to remain constant for the next few weeks.

About 20 percent of Mainers aged 70 and older have been vaccinated so far, Lambrew said. The state is on pace to have about two-thirds of people in that category receiving first doses by the first week of March, at which point the state would expand eligibility to Mainers between ages 65 and 69.

Maine is currently finishing vaccinating health care workers, residents of long-term care facilities and certain other workers critical to the COVID-19 response under Phase 1A of the state’s vaccination plan, and has begun inoculating people over the age of 70 under Phase 1B.

But that phase also includes people between the ages of 65 and 69 and more frontline workers, but the state has prioritized older Mainers amid continued supply constraints. The state still has not determined which workers will be included in the latter part of Phase 1B, Gov. Janet Mills said Thursday.

Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said it was difficult to predict the timeline for extending the vaccine to groups that fall later in the state’s vaccination plan. He said the state did not know enough about vaccine supply further down the line, but was working on increasing capacity so that it would be possible to administer more vaccines once they arrive.

“Supply is what governs speed at this point. What we want to do is just set up a really strong, robust system so that when the vaccine supply increases, we’re ready to get those shots into arms,” he said.

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