Child vaccinations begin as school outbreaks continue



ELLSWORTH — Since the emergency approval granted by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Oct. 29 and the recommendation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Nov. 2, children ages 5 and older in Maine can now start receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

The Portland Press Herald reported Nov. 9 that since the CDC’s recommendation, 2,018 elementary schoolchildren in the state have received their shots, with most of those children receiving their first dose in the two-dose series.

According to the FDA, the vaccine is administered to children ages 5 to 11 in a two-dose series, three weeks apart. The dose is 10 micrograms, lower than the 30 micrograms given to individuals ages 12 years and older.

Listed on Maine.gov, vaccination sites in Hancock County include the Ellsworth Walmart, Ellsworth Hannaford, Walgreens in Bar Harbor, Blue Hill, Bucksport and Ellsworth, Northern Light Blue Hill and Maine Coast hospitals, Mount Desert Island Hospital (with locations in Bar Harbor, Southwest Harbor and Trenton) and Bucksport Regional Health Center.

Most of those sites require scheduling appointments on their websites.

At Hannaford in Ellsworth, the pharmacy is accepting walk-ins, although those appointments are subject to vaccine availability.

Bucksport Regional Health Center is offering walk-in clinics for those ages 18 and older on Tuesdays from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Bucksport location.

Patients may also hear directly from their health-care providers about scheduling a vaccine, Maine.gov reports.

The emergency approval of the vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 comes as schools in Hancock County and across the state face shutdowns and student and staff quarantines due to the coronavirus.

According to a Nov. 8 letter from Regional School Unit 24 (RSU 24) Superintendent Michael Eastman, six individuals from the Mountain View School in Sullivan tested positive for COVID-19, leading to 37 people in quarantine.

“Unfortunately, we do not have adequate staffing for the next two days at Mountain View,” Eastman wrote, explaining that students would switch to remote learning. Students will be back to in-person learning Friday following the holiday on Veterans Day.

Ellsworth School Department Superintendent Dan Higgins reported Nov. 8 that students in grades pre-K through 8 would not have in-person or remote learning on Nov. 9.

That news came after the confirmation of 11 positive test results from individuals associated with Ellsworth Elementary-Middle School. Officials said the closure Tuesday was necessary due to the time needed to begin the contact tracing process and the number of staff and students already in quarantine.

Last week, the Mount Desert Islander reported on cases detected in six of the nine schools in the Mount Desert Island Regional School System (MDIRSS). Tremont Consolidated School was closed to students until Nov. 8.

MDIRSS Superintendent Marc Gousse said that the school district is working with Mount Desert Island Hospital to schedule vaccine clinics.

A chart on the Maine Department of Education’s (DOE) website breaks down COVID-19 cases by schools in the state.

Statewide over the past 30 days, the Maine DOE is reporting 3,308 total cases of COVID-19 and 161 schools with “outbreak status.” According to the department’s website, “an outbreak investigation is opened by Maine CDC after detecting three or more epidemiologically linked, confirmed cases among different households during a 14-day period.”

Some notes on the data as listed on the DOE website:

  • Data is updated on Thursdays, with data included from the previous day as of 3 p.m. The data is cumulative for the past 30 days.
  • Data is based on cases reported by schools through a designated form which includes staff and students.
  • Not all cases reported by Maine schools have been confirmed by the Maine CDC by the time of posting.

Hancock County outbreak sites listed in the data include the Blue Hill Consolidated School with 6 cases, Bucksport High School with 7 cases, Ellsworth Elementary-Middle School with 33 cases, Ellsworth High School with 5 cases, Mountain View School with 10 cases, Sedgwick Elementary School with 10 cases and Trenton Elementary School with 17 cases.

Last week, Governor Janet Mills, Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew and Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah issued a statement celebrating federal approval of the COVID-19 vaccine for younger children.

“The U.S. CDC’s recommendation of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 is the result of a thorough scientific review,” Shah said. “This vaccine is safe, free and will protect the health and lives of Maine children. I urge parents to talk to their child’s pediatrician to learn more, explore appointments at their local pharmacy and connect with their school community about the benefits of vaccination.”

Rebecca Alley

Rebecca Alley

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Rebecca is the Schoodic-area reporter and covers the towns of Eastbrook, Franklin, Hancock, Lamoine, Sorrento, Sullivan, Waltham, Winter Harbor and Trenton. She lives in Ellsworth with her husband and baby boy who was joyously welcomed in June 2020. Feel free to send tips and story ideas to [email protected]
Rebecca Alley

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