Maine aligns vaccination plan with President’s directive to make school staff, child care providers eligible

Wed, 03/03/2021 - 6:30pm

    AUGUSTA — Governor Janet Mills announced Wednesday her administration will align Maine’s vaccination plan with President Biden’s recent directive to make eligible pre-K-12 school staff and child care providers, regardless of age.

    According to the Maine Department of Education and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 36,400 school staff and 16,000 child care providers become newly eligible under this directive, aside from the 10,632 school staff over the age of 60 already eligible under the Governor’s age-tiered system.

    “I share the President’s desire to vaccinate school staff and child care workers as quickly as possible, just as I want to see all Maine people vaccinated as quickly as possible,” said Governor Janet Mills. “Based on the President’s directive, we are updating our plan today to make school staff and child care workers eligible. We will continue to work day and night with our health care providers to get shots into as many arms as possible, as quickly as possible, focusing our efforts on those most at risk of dying if they contract the virus.”

    “Maine teachers, staff, and school administrators have been dedicated and diligent throughout the pandemic, offering more in-person learning opportunities than in most other states,” said Pender Makin, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education. “We have already been working with DHHS and Maine CDC to plan local vaccine clinics for school staff age 60 and older and look forward to expanding eligibility to the entire education workforce.”

    “We will continue to work with health care providers and partners in communities throughout the state to ensure that all Maine people can get a COVID-19 vaccine,” said Jeanne Lambrew, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. “While this will take time, we are aligning Maine’s plan with the President’s directive as part of our ongoing efforts to protect the health of school and child care staff during the pandemic. The more Maine people who receive these safe and effective vaccines, the sooner we can all get back to normal.”

    Under the new federal policy, participants in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program – which includes certain Hannaford, Walgreens and Walmart pharmacies in Maine – are directed to give access to available appointments exclusively to school staff and licensed child care workers moving forward.

    School staff and child care workers should first check the websites of retail pharmacy partners for vaccine availability. Already scheduled appointments made by people 60 and older will not be canceled. Additionally, 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.

    Meanwhile, the Maine Departments of Health and Human Services and Education will continue their work to stand up dedicated vaccination opportunities for Maine school staff age 60 and older. The Administration intends to release further information about these opportunities later this week.

    Further, the Mills Administration has purchased 250,000 BinaxNOW rapid antigen tests that it has prioritized for schools and child care providers to expand regular testing and support in-person learning. The Administration is also providing an additional $30.5 million in Federal funds to support children, families, and child care providers with affordable child care due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Mills Administration has dedicated $329 million in CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds to support the operation of Maine schools during the pandemic.

    President Biden also announced Tuesday night more vaccine doses would be coming faster, with enough available by the end of May to vaccinate all adults in the United States.

    The Governor welcomes that news and is seeking further details about when more doses will arrive in Maine, a release noted.

    Maine is also adopting the new Federal policy’s definition of school staff and licensed child care workers, which is workers at pre-primary, primary, and secondary schools, Head Start and Early Head Start programs, including teachers, staff, and bus drivers and those who work as or for licensed child care providers, including center-based and family care providers. Vaccine sites will ask Maine residents for proof of eligibility. For these workers, proof of employment can include an employee ID card, a paystub, or a letter from the employer.