Maine health officials said Tuesday that 90,000 people who signed up with the state’s long-awaited coronavirus vaccine registration system should not wait for it to notify them for appointments two weeks after it was launched with few providers using it.
The idea for the system was to create a waiting list for people who might get vaccinated through providers who do not have a robust scheduling system. Procurement forms for the system indicate Maine authorized $4.4 million on call center services to help with pre-registration and nearly $800,000 on a scheduling service.
But on Tuesday, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Center Director Nirav Shah named only two sites using the state service now — the MaineGeneral location at the Augusta Civic Center and York Hospital — and said people able to get appointments quicker should do so. It could be “a little while” before the state contacts them with appointment options, he said.
Instead, Maine will largely begin reaching out to people who registered on the site Wednesday to remind them of where they can be vaccinated. That’s the day the state will open eligibility to everyone over age 16 as new cases increased and appointments lagged after people over the age of 50 were included. Hospitals saw a rush of interest in appointments after Gov. Janet Mills announced the change on Thursday.
Shah said people should not wait because Maine has far more vaccines and clinics than anticipated when the system was conceived. He said the state will eventually send people who signed up a code for sites that might be close to them, but he did not have a timeline.
“We want to make sure they are getting a shot as soon as possible,” he said.
He said the Sanford mass vaccination clinic may pick up the service and said the state has heard from smaller groups interested in doing clinics as well. Maine’s emergency management services and a new, federally supported system of mobile clinics beginning in Oxford next week and moving to other cities and towns through mid-June may use the system as well.
As of Tuesday, appointments in Oxford were only available by calling Maine’s community vaccination line at 1-888-445-4111. Bangor-based Northern Light Health was offering appointments through next week at locations including Bangor, Presque Isle and Dover-Foxcroft, while Walgreens was offering appointments for younger people in certain areas of the state. Hannaford and Walmart were set to open appointments for them on Wednesday.