Maine Adopts Age-Based Approach to Expanding Vaccine Eligibility


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In an effort to save lives and ensure that health care providers can effectively and quickly vaccinate as many people as possible, Governor Janet T. Mills announced today that Maine will adopt an age-based approach to expanding eligibility.  As a result, beginning next Wednesday, March 3, 2021, Maine will expand eligibility, for the vaccine to those 60 years and older according to a press release issued this morning.

The update to Maine’s vaccination strategy decided in consultation with the Maine Department of Health & Human Services and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, reflects recent scientific data including that age is among the strongest predictions of whether an individual is likely to get seriously ill and die from COVID-19, even more so than risk factors such as underlying medical conditions.

For example in Maine, 98% of deaths from COVID-19 have been people aged 50 and older.  The death rate among people with COVID-19, when compared to Maine residents under ago 50, is eight times higher for those in their 50s, 23 times higher for those in their 60s, and 214 times higher for those aged 70 and older.

The relative risk of morbidity ad mortality associated with age exceeds that of having cancer, lung disease or a disability.  At least four epidemiological studies have found that, even when considering a range of underlying medical conditions, age is a strong predictor of death or severe COVID-19 disease.  This approach maintains Governor Mills’ strategy to distribute and administer vaccines in order to protect the most vulnerable.  Those most at risk of dying from COVID-19.

The straightforward strategy also replaces the prospect of complicated eligibility rules based on types of work and medical conditions that would be difficult to implement and verify.  Such rules could inadvertently slow down the process of getting shots into the arms of Maine people, a critical goal to limit he spread of new COVID-19 variants.  Instead, this clear approach provides a greater measure of certainty and predictability that allows all Maine people to know when they will be eligible for vaccination and is easier to implement and verify from health care providers.

The planned schedule which is subject to change depending on fluctuations in vaccine supply including an acceleration if supply increases, is as follows:

MARCH 3, Eligibility expands to residents age 60 and older; APRIL 1, Eligibility expands to residents age 50 and older; MAY 1, Eligibility expands to residents age 40 and older; JUNE 1, Eligibility expands to residents 30 and older; JULY and BEYOND, Eligibility expands to residents 29 and under, including children pending authorization of a vaccine for them.

“Throughout the pandemic, my fundamental goal has been to save lives and protect our most vulnerable people. A review of recent data by the MaineCDC indicates that age is a significant predictor of whether someone will become seriously sick or is more likely o die if they contract COVID-19,” said Governor Mills.  “Taking that into consideration, along with he clarity, predictablility and relative ease of implementation, I believe this approach is the best option to save lives and ensure the vaccine can be administered to as many people as quickly and as efficiently as possible.  We are undertaking the largest mass vaccination effort in history and I am grateful to Maine people for their understanding and patience as we make adjustments to reflect the latest  science and get shots into arms as quickly as we can.

To date, Maine has administered 328,357 doses of COVID-19 vaccine; 217,667 people, or 16.19% of residents, have gotten first doses with 110,690 people, or 8.23% of residents, having received both doses.

Despite having the oldest population in the country by median age, Maine, adjusted for population, ranks second lowest in the nation in total hospitalizations; third lowest in total number of cases and fourth lowest in number of deaths from COVID-19, according to the Maine Department of Health & Human Services.