Houlton Regional Hospital begins holding vaccine clinics

3 years ago

HOULTON, Maine — With the race to vaccinate as many Americans as possible to counter the COVID-19 pandemic underway, Houlton Regional Hospital has joined the fight in holding clinics to vaccinate around 100 people each week. 

The hospital held its first vaccine clinic for residents age 70 and older on Thursday, Jan. 29, delivering shots in the arm to some of Houlton area’s most elderly residents. Those who have been pre-registered to attend the vaccine clinic are called up in order of seniority, ensuring the oldest and some of the most vulnerable people will be first in line to receive the vaccine.

Traci Peabody, chief nursing officer for HRH, said it was important that people who are called in for the clinic appointment attend at the time and date they are allotted, so that any opened vaccine vials are not wasted and the clinic can keep the number of people being called in running orderly. 

“They need to keep their appointment. That’s a big piece of it,” Peabody said. “There’s 10 to 11 doses in every vial, and once we open a vial, we have six hours to use it. So if people don’t show up for their allotted time, it becomes a problem.” 

Shawn Anderson, the CEO of Houlton Regional, said that the hospital was receiving around 100 doses of the Moderna vaccine each week, and the challenge is how to get each and every one of those doses into the arms of citizens in a timely and orderly manner. 

“It’s kind of a slow roll, to be honest,” Anderson said. “We can put 100 vaccines into arms relatively quickly, but the actual process of accessing people — it’s getting people scheduled and making sure they’re here and going through the registration process. All of that takes time.” 

Anderson also emphasized that once someone enters their information into the hospital’s registration system, they are in the system, and do not need to do anything else to be registered.

“We have a very accurate and robust system,” he said. “The system is working extremely well, but what we don’t need are repeat registrations, which can complicate an already complicated process.”

The vaccination process is ordered strictly by age, meaning that married couples that fall into different age groups may find themselves getting vaccinated at different times. The hospital is following the Maine CDC guidelines, which say that any area’s oldest population should be the first among those vaccinated. 

“That’s really the guidance from the Maine CDC and the governor’s office, that we ought to be vaccinating the most elderly population first since they’re the most at risk,” Anderson said. “So this week, we’ve been vaccinating primarily people in their 90s.” 

While Peabody said that most registered people in their 90s and a few in their 80s had already been vaccinated, the population of people in their 70s in the Houlton area is significantly higher, and could take several weeks until they all receive their first shot of the vaccine. 

“The 90s age group was a couple hundred [people]. The 80s age group was about two to three times that amount, and the 70s is hundreds and hundreds of people,” she said. “So that’s one way to keep it into perspective that it may be awhile before some of these folks get called.” 

People looking to pre-register for upcoming clinics can do so by visiting the hospital’s website, houltonregional.org, or by calling them at 207-521-2240. The next vaccine clinic is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 3.