For COVID vaccine recipients, clinics mark first steps toward return to normalcy

3 years ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Like the hundreds of people who turned out for Presque Isle’s first series of COVID-19 vaccination clinics this week at Northern Maine Community College, Brenda Devoe of Washburn, 71, has dealt with her fair share of loneliness and isolation throughout the pandemic.

“I have a daughter and granddaughter who work at the hospital [in Presque Isle] and another granddaughter who works in a store. My daughter has been bringing my groceries and leaving them on the porch. They don’t want to risk infecting me,” Devoe said, just hours after receiving her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

“I miss them,” she said. “We talk on the phone but it’s not the same. I miss being able to hug them and see their faces.”

In addition to not seeing many of her family members and friends, Devoe lost her husband Leigh “Arnie” Devoe in August due to complications from diabetes. While attending Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital’s first COVID-19 vaccination clinic for people 70 years and older Wednesday, she said she kept thinking that Arnie, who was 74, would have been looking forward to the experience as much as she was.

The one bright spot in the darkness of the pandemic has been helping Aroostook County take a major step toward pre-pandemic normalcy, Devoe said. She praised hospital and NMCC officials for keeping the clinic running smoothly and for having people there to guide the socially distanced crowd and answer questions about the vaccine.

“It was the best setup for a clinic that I’ve ever seen. I’m already looking forward to getting the second vaccine,” Devoe said. “I’m looking forward to getting back out into the public once all of this is over.”

Nancy Roe (left) and her daughter Judy Roe wait for Nancy to receive her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at NMCC on Wednesday. (Courtesy of Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital)

Devoe is not alone in awaiting a post-pandemic world. When A.R. Gould filled 840 appointments for clinics initially scheduled for Jan. 27 and 29, the hospital and NMCC added another daylong clinic on Jan. 28 after receiving more allotments of the Pfizer vaccine than they were expecting.

A.R. Gould, along with other hospitals in the Northern Light Health system, will announce dates for upcoming clinics every Monday at 2 p.m., with the appointment information listed on Though officials are encouraging people to register for their appointments on the website, a hotline number is available for those who do not have reliable access to the internet. That number is 207-204-8551. 

Dr. Jay Reynolds, a family medicine physician at A.R. Gould, said the exact dates for the clinics and the scheduling of people younger than 70 years will depend on how much vaccine the hospital receives on a weekly basis.

“We do not know what our week to week allowance will be, but we are dedicated to dispense every dose we receive very quickly to protect our community,” Reynolds said. “We are concentrating on our oldest citizens first. In the future, we will be adding patients with certain chronic health conditions, workers in essential occupations and eventually the public at large.”

Future clinics will continue to be held at NMCC’s gymnasium. AR Gould president Greg LaFrancois praised volunteers from the hospital and college for helping the first round of clinics run smoothly.

“We stand ready to rapidly flex our capacity to administer as much vaccine as we receive. There is no mission more important than protecting our citizens and there is no group more committed to that mission than Aroostook County,” LaFrancois said.

Nancy Roe, 90, of Presque Isle attended the Wednesday clinic with her daughter, Judy Roe, who has served as one of her mother’s caregivers since she began using a wheelchair. She said the clinic was run very smoothly and it allowed people to wait 15 minutes after receiving their vaccines to make sure no major side effects occurred.

As someone who has relied on Zoom for the past 10 years to communicate with friends and family outside of Aroostook, Roe found herself relying on the video conferencing site even more after COVID-19 began. She has attended virtual classes through the statewide Maine Senior College Network and has been thankful to the local library for offering outside pickup services for books.

“Those two things have really gotten me through the pandemic. I’ve taken classes with people from all over the state,” Roe said. “Thank goodness the library was able to stay busy and keep us going with books.”

But still, Roe said, she is anxious for the day when she can once again visit with family and friends in person without worrying about spreading COVID-19.

“It feels like any other shot. It’s really no big deal,” Roe said. “But the more people who can get vaccinated the better. I hope everyone else can get it as soon as possible.”