Now that COVID-19 vaccines are available to all those in Maine who are age 16 or older, Northern Light AR Gould Hospital has adjusted some clinic hours to be more accessible to those in school or working during the day. 

A clinic is planned this Wednesday, April 14, from 2-6 pm, at Northern Maine Community College, and there are still slots available.

“With summer right around the corner, vaccines are a way for us to try to find some semblance of normal,” said Jay Reynolds, MD, senior physician executive at the hospital. “Whether it be families looking at vacation plans, teens looking to play sports, or those preparing to head to college in the fall, preventive steps now can make the difference. Since it takes five weeks from receiving the first dose of Pfizer until someone is considered fully vaccinated, it’s important to get started with the process.”

For the Pfizer vaccine, individuals must allow three weeks between the two doses and another two weeks after that before the vaccine is considered fully effective.  Pfizer is the only vaccine approved for those age 16 and 17, and in Aroostook County it is only available from AR Gould’s clinic in Presque Isle.   

According to Dr. Reynolds, another reason people should consider seeking a vaccine sooner rather than later is ease of access.  As the demand for the vaccine begins to diminish in our region, the hospital will begin scaling back vaccine efforts. In the near future, they will be transitioning away from holding a large-scale vaccination clinic at NMCC to doing something on a smaller level on hospital property.  

“Running a large vaccination site away from the hospital is a drain on our resources.  While volunteers have been incredibly helpful, we are in large part depending on our own staff and leaders to be operating that location two days a week while still maintaining needs at the hospital. We will continue to do so as long as there is a need, but once clinic numbers get smaller, we can handle vaccinations more efficiently in-house,” explained Dr. Reynolds.  

Logistically, he points out that as the local needs lessen, as demonstrated by unfilled clinic spots, so does the hospital’s allotment of vaccines from the state. Those allotments are redirected downstate where demand is still great. When allotments are smaller, the hospital will only be able to offer smaller clinics anyway.

Vaccine slots will be more readily available while the clinic continues to be located at NMCC, and Dr. Reynolds urges people to take advantage of that opportunity.

Individuals can register at covid.northernlighthealth.org or by calling 207-204-8551. The hospital also continues to partner with the Aroostook Agency on Aging (1-800-439-1789) and the Aroostook County Action Program (207-764-3721) to provide assistance with registering individuals over the phone as well as connecting people to resources they might need, such as transportation to the clinic.

LOOK: Answers to 30 common COVID-19 vaccine questions

While much is still unknown about the coronavirus and the future, what is known is that the currently available vaccines have gone through all three trial phases and are safe and effective. It will be necessary for as many Americans as possible to be vaccinated in order to finally return to some level of pre-pandemic normalcy, and hopefully these 30 answers provided here will help readers get vaccinated as soon they are able.