AUGUSTA, Maine — All Maine adults will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in May after a new federal directive, but Gov. Janet Mills is not otherwise accelerating her timeline or altering current vaccination plans.
All Mainers under age 50 will be eligible to get vaccinated beginning May 1, Mills announced Friday. Her announcement followed a directive from President Joe Biden that all states make adults eligible by May. Previously, only Mainers in their 40s were eligible for vaccines in May under Maine’s age-based plan.
Mills extended eligibility to educators and child care providers of any age last week after Biden instructed states to ensure educators could get at least one vaccine dose by the end of March. But Maine’s vaccination system is otherwise based only on age, with no prioritization based pre-existing health conditions or occupation.
“The future is getting brighter, but there is more to do — and my Administration will continue to work with the President and with health care providers across the state to get people vaccinated and move us closer to getting back to normal,” Mills said in a statement Friday.
Mainers in their 60s became eligible for the vaccine on March 3. Those in their 50s are set to become eligible on April 1. As of Friday, more than 178,000 Mainers are fully vaccinated and more than 480,000 total doses have been administered.
About 750,000 Mainers are under the age of 50, according to Census data. Of that group, nearly 90,000 have received at least one vaccine dose so far, as health care workers, first responders and law enforcement personnel were eligible in the first phase of vaccinations. More who are teachers or child care providers will get vaccinated in the coming weeks.
That leaves hundreds of thousands of Mainers who will become eligible for the vaccine simultaneously on May 1. Steve Michaud, president of the Maine Hospital Association, was optimistic Friday about hospitals’ ability to administer vaccines to a larger population come May provided that the federal government allocated enough vaccines, citing “tremendous excess capacity” at many hospital-run sites.
If state guidelines continue to allow it, hospitals could prioritize patients under age 50 with pre-existing conditions that put them at higher risk for severe COVID-19. So far, state officials have permitted health care providers to prioritize patients based on health conditions within eligible age bands.
“If they’ve got the flexibility, they most likely will, because they know — not 100 percent — but they know who their patients are with those conditions,” Michaud said.