Maine reported 660 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 14 additional deaths as federal regulators gave final approval for vaccines to be given to ages 5 through 11.
The shots can be immediately given to elementary-aged children, and Maine has already received a shipment from the federal government of about 33,900 doses. That is enough for slightly more than one-third of the doses needed to cover the 96,000 children in Maine ages 5-11. More shipments are expected in the coming weeks.
Some health care providers are already scheduling appointments for younger children. Providers that will accept appointments soon or are already scheduling appointments include Walgreens, CVS, InterMed, Northern Light Health and MaineHealth.
Pediatricians also are prepared to vaccinate patients in their medical offices in the coming days. InterMed is hosting a clinic for its patients on Saturday in South Portland, and nearly all 400 appointments were quickly filled, said InterMed spokesman John Lamb.
“Parents have been eagerly awaiting the vaccine for this age group and the response has been very strong,” Lamb said.
MaineHealth is offering some appointments at pediatrician’s offices, but John Porter, MaineHealth spokesman, encouraged parents to look for school-based clinics.
“Our mass vaccination strategy is our school-based clinics,” Porter said. Clinics are already scheduled in Brunswick, Biddeford, Freeport and dozens of other schools, with more schools expected to be added soon.
The child formulation is one-third the dosage for adults.
“We’re putting into action our plan with health care providers, pharmacies, schools, and other partners to make the vaccine available to this age group as soon as this week and over the coming days and weeks,” said Jeanne Lambrew, Maine’s health and human services commissioner, in a statement.
Dr. Nirav Shah, Maine CDC director, said in a statement that the COVID-19 vaccine for ages 5-11 is “the result of a thorough scientific review. “This vaccine is safe, free, and will protect the health and lives of Maine children. I urge parents to talk to their child’s pediatrician to learn more, explore appointments at their local pharmacy, and connect with their school community about the benefits of vaccination.”
Shah and Lambrew are expected to brief the media at 2 p.m. today.
Since the pandemic began, Maine has logged 105,781 cases of COVID-19, and 1,193 deaths. The seven-day average of daily new cases stood at 473.9 on Wednesday, compared to 462 a week ago and 607.3 a month ago.
Public health experts have estimated that Maine’s overall vaccination rate could increase by 2.5 to 7.5 percent with the addition of the 5-11 age group. While children are less likely to get severe disease from COVID-19 compared to adults, some still do, and schoolchildren are vectors of the disease.
The state is reporting that 947,587 Maine people are fully vaccinated, representing 70.5 percent of Maine’s 1.3 million population.
Hospitalizations remained high on Wednesday, with 212 Maine people hospitalized with COVID-19, including 76 in critical care and 37 on a ventilator.
This story will be updated.