Kris Lowell of Warren got her coronavirus vaccine appointment in three minutes the day after Gov. Janet Mills said all Mainers 16 and older would soon be eligible, but she had to wake up at midnight to do so.
The 47-year-old had been anxious to get vaccinated for health reasons, but also to try to return to a sense of normalcy. She and her partner had put off their wedding twice due to the pandemic, and she did not want to risk having to refresh pages to get a shot.
Lowell was one of the thousands of newly eligible Mainers to get vaccinated Wednesday in a long-awaited step in the fight against the virus. The move granted eligibility to more than 450,000 people, and thousands moved quickly to schedule appointments.
Most found the process easy, if occasionally time-consuming. Some of the newly eligible took faced some hurdles, according to responses to a Bangor Daily News reader survey. One central Maine woman reported lying about her age on Walmart’s vaccine sign-up website because it was not allowing people under 50 to schedule when she tried.
Their experiences contrast with those older Mainers faced when vaccines first became available to the general population, when Maine had fewer vaccines and immunization sites. But it will still be a while before everyone is able to get a shot as vaccine supply remains tight. MaineHealth, one of the state’s largest providers, reported having a waitlist of 37,000 people on Monday.
Lowell said she pursued vaccination through Walmart’s website because she had been told by a friend that the company opened up new appointments at midnight. She had already been researching where she might want to get vaccinated prior to last Thursday, something she credited with snagging an early appointment. She will get her first shot Thursday.
“I think we got lucky,” she said. “People who didn’t jump on it might have a harder time than we would.”
Patrick MacRoy of Westbrook anticipated having to refresh a web site for hours after struggling to get his parents in Illinois vaccinated in February. He was “pleasantly surprised” when he was able to get an appointment through Northern Light Health last Thursday while casually looking at their site on his phone. But he canceled that one when his provider, Martin’s Point Health Care, texted him the next day and he was able to set up an appointment by text.
“It was so easy I was wondering if it was even legitimate,” MacRoy said. He got his first dose on Wednesday.
A Bucksport woman reported looking for appointments on the Walmart, Hannaford and Northern Light Health websites but had so far been unsuccessful. She said she was looking for an appointment close to her in the Bangor area.
Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav Shah said Tuesday that the state was monitoring where sustained demand for vaccines were after Northern Light Health still had appointments a week out after eligibility opened up. But he said he did not see many signs of hesitancy in the state so far.
“We can’t really say that there’s pockets of hesitancy,” he said. “What we’re really seeing overwhelmingly across the state remains urgency, not hesitancy.”