MaineHealth Opens COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics In Knox and Waldo Counties
February 04, 2021
Hope and a strong community spirit dominated when MaineHealth opened COVID-19 vaccine clinics in Belfast and Rockport last week. Operated jointly by Pen Bay Medical Center (PBMC) and Waldo County General Hospital (WCGH), the clinics delivered 1,019 vaccines to those 70 years of age and older and to area health care workers, including first responders.
“Yes! We got it!” said Belfast resident Beverly O’Malia, 78, who with her husband, John, received her COVID-19 vaccination in the first day of the Belfast clinic. “I’m just thrilled. I think the hospitals have done a great job getting this organized.”
Michael Shunney, 70, was among the first to get vaccinated at the Rockport clinic. “I normally avoid getting vaccinated but felt a sense of obligation with COVID-19,” Shunney said. “It feels like taking one for the team. It is a duty to the community. If it was just for me, I probably wouldn’t have gotten the shot. But this is much bigger than me.”
Both national and local health officials see the vaccine as the best way out of the pandemic. Their goal is to vaccinate 80 percent or more of the population by this summer to allow for a return to a more normal life in the fall.
The clinics were held at the Samoset Resort in Rockport and in building # 6 of the former MBNA complex in Belfast. Both locations offered the expansive interior space required for a high-volume vaccination campaign, as well as ample parking.
“We’re especially grateful to the Samoset Resort, which demonstrated its commitment to the health of our communities by providing the space for our Rockport clinic at no charge,” said Mark Fourre, MD, president of PBMC and WCGH. “A vaccination campaign of this scale can only succeed as a community effort and the Samoset is leading the way.”
The Samoset is part of the Opal Collection, the marketing arm for a group of independently owned luxury hotels and resorts stretching from Bar Harbor to Key West. The Bar Harbor Regency, another Opal property, is donating space for a COVID-19 vaccine clinic on Mount Desert Island.
“We are glad to do our part by partnering with our community health care professionals and donating function space in an effort to make a positive contribution to the critical vaccination process in the state of Maine,” said Connie Russell, general manager of Samoset Resort.
Both the Belfast and Rockport locations allowed for easy registration and a smooth flow as patients moved through initial screening to registration to getting their vaccination. Between 250 and 300 people were vaccinated at each location each day. Those numbers will increase in the future as more doses of the vaccine become available.
“The enthusiasm of the people who came in to be vaccinated was inspiring,” said Denise Needham, PharmD, senior director of operations at WCGH. It was Needham’s team of pharmacists who lead the effort to organize both clinics. “It really felt like a celebration, and you could see and sense that people, even strangers, were bonding over this experience.”
For Maxine Helen Philbrook, 81, a retired schoolteacher living in Thomaston, a light snow on the first day of the clinic in Rockport could not dampen her enthusiasm. “I was just hoping the weather would hold off,” she said. “I have family living out of state, including five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. I’m hoping this vaccine gets us out of this pandemic so I can see them again.”
Needham praised her team and dozens of colleagues at PBMC and WCGH for how smoothly the clinics rolled out. “Even though we’ve been in it for just about a year now, everything about this pandemic continues to evolve quickly,” Needham said. “This team adapted when they had to and never lost focus or commitment.”
The COVID-19 vaccine clinics will continue to be scheduled at both locations based on vaccine allotments and staffing availability each week.
Vaccination is by appointment only. Due to high demand, people are encouraged to be patient as they seek appointments. To sign-up, go to mainehealth.org/vaccine or call 1-877-780-7545. Once you have completed registration you will receive a call back, in the order that your call was received, when there is vaccine available. MaineHealth asks that people not call their local health care providers, as they are not able to make appointments.
Both clinic locations are following the guidance of the Maine Centers for Disease Control, which has prioritized those 70 years of age and older as well as health care providers. As the state expands eligibility, PBMC and WCGH will share this information on their websites at pbmc.org and wcgh.org, and on their Facebook pages.
There is assistance available at both clinics for those who need help getting around. Everyone entering the clinic will be screened for symptoms of COVID-19. They will also be required to wear a mask, maintain social distancing and sanitize their hands.
About Pen Bay Medical Center
Pen Bay Medical Center is part of MaineHealth, a not-for-profit integrated health system consisting of eight local hospital systems, a comprehensive behavioral healthcare network, diagnostic services, home health agencies, and more than 1,600 employed and independent physicians working together through an Accountable Care Organization. With more than 19,000 employees, MaineHealth is the largest health system in northern New England and provides preventive care, diagnosis and treatment to 1.1 million residents in Maine and New Hampshire. For more information, please visit pbmc.org.
Waldo County General Hospital
Waldo County General Hospital is part of MaineHealth, a not-for-profit integrated health system consisting of eight local hospital systems, a comprehensive behavioral healthcare network, diagnostic services, home health agencies, and more than 1,600 employed and independent physicians working together through an Accountable Care Organization. With more than 19,000 employees, MaineHealth is the largest health system in northern New England and provides preventive care, diagnosis and treatment to 1.1 million residents in Maine and New Hampshire. For more information, please visit wcgh.org.