AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine could soon extend COVID-19 vaccinations to people aged 65 through 69 as the federal allocations continue to increase and a new vaccine from Johnson & Johnson may be approved for emergency use this weekend.
Maine is set to receive more than 38,600 first doses of vaccines next week, the most it has received in any week since vaccinations began in December. About 30,000 are allocated to providers through the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, while more than 8,000 go to Walmart and Walgreens locations through the federal retail pharmacy program.
The state expects the higher federal allocation of vaccines to continue, said Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Additional supply could be on the way if the one-shot vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson is authorized for emergency use. Federal advisers at the Food and Drug Administration will meet Friday to discuss the vaccine after an agency report released Wednesday concluded the vaccine is effective and safe.
Shah declined to say Thursday how many of the new vaccines Maine might receive at the outset if the vaccine is approved, saying nothing had been finalized. But he hinted that it could help Maine extend eligibility, saying the approval would “help us move further down the path.”
“All of these things, volume, type and stability, expand the range of options that we have in Maine for where we go next in our vaccination journey,” Shah said. “I suspect that Gov. [Janet] Mills will have much more to say about this topic in the very near future.”
Shah and Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew declined to say when the Democratic governor’s announcement might be coming. Lambrew said it would likely not happen on Thursday.
As of Thursday, more than 211,000 Mainers have received first vaccine doses while more than 105,000 have received second doses, according to state data. Maine extended eligibility to residents aged 70 and up in mid-January after initially offering vaccines to residents of long-term care facilities, health care workers, emergency responders and certain other workers considered critical to the state’s COVID-19 response.
People between the ages of 65 and 69 are next in line, according to the state’s vaccine plan, followed by adults with certain pre-existing conditions and some frontline workers. The state has declined to say so far which pre-existing conditions, or what types of workers, will be eligible.