Last Friday, Governor Mills announced an age-based eligibility plan for vaccination to continue protecting those most at risk of dying from COVID-19 and to ensure the speed and efficiency of the state’s vaccination effort. On Wednesday, eligibility expanded to Maine residents 60 years old or older. As part of this plan, the Mills Administration is also standing up dedicated vaccination opportunities for education professionals who are 60 years of age or older.
To that end, the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services have partnered with healthcare providers across Maine who will offer regional vaccination opportunities for the age–eligible school staff March 12 to March 14. Vaccination doses have been matched to staff numbers to ensure that all school staff 60 and older can receive a vaccine. In Maine, 23 percent of education personnel are in the 60 plus age category, which is more than 10,300 individuals.
Superintendents have been provided updates throughout the week, and today will receive information specifically for their school administrative unit, including times, location and date(s) that their age– eligible staff have been assigned to. Depending on which medical service provider an school administrative unit (SAU) is assigned to, some will today receive a dedicated registration link or phone number to be shared with only those staff members who are age 60 or older; others will be receiving the dedicated registration information on Monday. The registration will be matched to the rosters provided by Maine DOE to the vaccination clinics.
This week, some individuals – school staff younger than age 60 – gained access to one of the registration links, which allowed them to register for an appointment despite their ineligibility for these clinics for school staff over age 60. The healthcare organization that has partnered with DHHS and DOE to offer this clinic will be reaching out to rededicate these appointments to eligible education staff who are 60 years or older.
On March 3, Governor Mills also aligned Maine’s vaccination plan with a directive from the Biden Administration to make eligible school staff or licensed childcare providers, regardless of age. As a result, school and child care staff regardless of age may also seek vaccination through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. These sites include Walmart, Sam’s Club, Hannaford, and Walgreens. The Federal government requires “all enrolled retail pharmacy providers to set aside all currently un-booked vaccination slots for the exclusive use of teachers, school staff, and child care workers through March 31, 2021. Slots that remain un-booked 48 hours prior to the appointment may be released to others.”
These pharmacies receive vaccine directly from the Federal government over and above what Maine receives for distribution. Aside from these retail pharmacies, Maine vaccination sites should incorporate educators, school staff, and child care workers into their workflow when scheduling appointments for COVID-19 vaccination. Special clinics limited to this eligibility group may be organized by the retail pharmacy providers but not by other health care providers, including Emergency Medical Services providers, and sites receiving state supplied vaccine except for the age-limited clinics for school staff over 60 years described earlier.
Additional vaccine clinics in Maine will begin accepting appointments for school staff and licensed child care workers as soon as they are able. Maine school staff and child care providers are encouraged to view Maine’s COVID-19 vaccination website for the most up-to-date information on locations accepting appointments.
“Our schools have been implementing the six health and safety requirements since August, and have been successful in keeping both students and staff safe,” said Commissioner of Education Pender Makin. “We know our school staff are as safe today in schools as they were two weeks ago, and that a vaccine will support their ongoing efforts in the classroom. I ask them to remain patient as vaccine doses become available to them, and for all education and childcare staff members to register with any of the pharmacy providers to receive the vaccine, as soon as it is possible for them to do so.”