Northern Light Health’s mass vaccine clinic at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor could close by the end of May as the health care system transitions to new ways of vaccinating people, Northern Light spokesperson Suzanne Spruce said Tuesday.
In an email to clinic volunteers earlier on Tuesday, a volunteer coordinator said that the last clinic at the center is tentatively scheduled for May 27. While that closure date is not set in stone, the system is preparing to transition its vaccination efforts away from mass clinics, Spruce said.
The move may reflect a new stage in Maine’s vaccination efforts as health officials prepare to target those who are less proactive about getting the shot. Getting such populations vaccinated may be instrumental in Maine’s return to pre-pandemic normalcy.
Spruce said that appointment bookings had slowed as Maine’s vaccination rate rose, a drop in demand that’s expected to continue. She said the system is looking at transitioning to providing shots in new ways at Northern Light locations across the state, including at its walk-in care clinics and to inpatients in its hospitals. It also hopes to partner with businesses, schools and universities to get more people vaccinated, Spruce said.
“While the location of vaccinations may change, Northern Light Health remains firmly committed to ensuring vaccine is available to our communities,” Spruce said.
About 55 percent of Mainers 16 and older have now received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 43 percent now fully vaccinated, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
There are other signs that vaccinations may be plateauing in Maine, including the recent closure of several rural clinics throughout the state.
The Cross Insurance Center, which became the state’s first mass vaccination clinic, has been a symbol of efficiency in Maine since it opened on Feb. 2, vaccinating thousands of people a day. Northern Light officials designed the clinic to maximize the number of people who could receive the shot by quickly directing people through the vaccination process.
The COVID-19 vaccine is now widely available throughout the state. While some in southern Maine once had difficulty getting appointments, the Portland Expo will begin offering walk-in shots on Wednesday. MaineHealth is allowing people to get shots without appointments in Farmington and plans to begin allowing walk-ins at other clinics in the coming weeks.