St. John Valley

Northern Maine Medical Center COVID-19 public vaccination hotline overwhelmed on first day

FORT KENT, Maine — Northern Maine Medical Center was swamped with 700 calls Wednesday morning when it opened its dedicated phone line for the public to register for COVID-19 vaccinations. 

By the afternoon, the hospital’s registration hotline was so overwhelmed that NMMC limited registrations to people whose primary or seasonal residence is in the St. John Valley. People from all around the state — and even from out of state —  were calling to register.

“Individuals from the public were calling to see if they could be vaccinated prior to the call center opening,” NMMC Interim Director of Communications Joanne Fortin said. “Many of the patients are seniors or have medical conditions which concern them, rightly so, in terms of their risk for COVID.”

NMMC will administer the two-part Moderna vaccine as soon as they receive a supply from the Maine Centers for Disease Control.  

“We are working to set up a site at the Fort Kent Knights of Columbus hall and we are working on a plan to provide the vaccinations in the Madawaska area as well,” Fortin said. 

Dr. Alexandra Roberts of Northern Maine Medical Center and Forest Hill Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center receives her COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 22. (Courtesy of Northern Maine Medical Center)

Who receives the vaccine and in what order will be determined using the CDC guidelines, which includes categories of people eligible to receive the vaccine and when

The first category includes health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. Those groups have already been or are currently being vaccinated in Aroostook.

The next group to be vaccinated is composed of people age 75 and older and frontline essential workers. The United States Center for Disease Control website defines essential workers as firefighters, police officers, corrections officers, and workers in food and agricultural, U.S. Postal Service, manufacturing, grocery stores, public transit, daycare and those who work in the education sector such as teachers, and support staff.

The next category includes people ages 65-74, people ages 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions and other essential workers.

NMMC is accepting registration information from all members of the St. John Valley public regardless of which category they are in, and will schedule vaccinations according to the CDC guidelines. The registration hotline number is: 207-834-1512 .

There is no cost to receive the vaccine.

Those who call the NMMC vaccine hotline may not be able to connect with a person right away, due to the high volume of calls.

“We are committed to calling every single person back and we are trying to reassure them that they should leave a message if they are not getting through to the staff who are taking the calls,” Fortin said. 

Those with COVID-19 symptoms or questions about the virus should call the NMMC respiratory clinic at 207-834-1390 or their personal healthcare provider.

Answers to frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine are available from NMMC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kristin Hartt on the hospital website. 

As of Wednesday, Jan. 13, the Maine CDC reported 62,004 cumulative COVID-19 vaccinations in the state, with 53,511 first doses and 8,493 second doses of the vaccine having been administered.

On Thursday, Jan. 14, the Maine CDC reported 951 cases of COVID-19 in Aroostook County, and 31,958 in the state.

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