The Penobscot Times

Tribes use community ties to open COVID-19 vaccines to all adults ahead of Maine

PLEASANT POINT, Maine — Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Passamaquoddy elder Sarah Stanley has worried about getting her grandchildren sick if she ends up being exposed to the virus. She now feels “100 percent safer” but still worries about venturing beyond home.

The difference now is that the 61-year-old from Pleasant Point was vaccinated at the tribe’s health center. The clinic had her on file as a patient with underlying health conditions and called her directly. There was no need to jockey for an appointment or navigate a website for hours, as many other older Mainers did when eligibility opened up.

“I would have done anything to get vaccinated,” Stanley said. “I’m really grateful that I did not have to try and go anywhere for it. I’m grateful to them.”

That close connection to their communities may be one of the reasons why three of the five tribal clinics in Maine have opened up doses to all people over age 16 while largely following a similar age-based strategy that the state has used. At least two are outpacing the state now and their effort could be a preview of Maine’s move to universal eligibility planned for April 19.

The Penobscot Nation, the Passamaquoddy at Pleasant Point and Indian Township and the Aroostook Band of Micmacs had collectively gotten 6,750 doses as of Tuesday with over half going to the Penobscots. They get their doses from the federal Indian Health Service. The Maliseets are supplied by the state and have gotten enough doses for 400 people, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said.

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