DOVER-FOXCROFT — Northern Light Health’s COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Piscataquis County Ice Arena on West Main Street, operated through a partnership with Foxcroft Academy and the Libra Foundation, is up and running following the first day on Friday, March 19. The opening went smoothly and plans are to double the number of doses given per day from 500 to 1,000 in several weeks.
“That launch at the ice arena in Dover went very, very well,” Dr. James Jarvis, senior physician executive of Northern Light Health’s COVID-19 response, said during a media conference call from the vaccination clinic at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on March 24. “Very quickly they realized that yes indeed they could handle a much larger number of individuals than what had originally been signed up for. We purposely did not overwhelm the system on their very first day, but they certainly can reach their goal of being able to vaccinate 1,000 people per week at that particular site.”
Dr. Jarvis said a few small changes have been made after the first day to make operations slightly more convenient for staff and patients, but there are no major adjustments needed.
He praised the Northern Light Health team that designed the organization of the vaccination site setup. “It didn’t matter if we were going big or small, we could replicate the system that we put in place here first at the Cross Insurance Center and across all of our sites,” Dr. Jarvis said.
In Dover-Foxcroft, the Pfizer vaccine is being used, which requires patients to receive first and second doses three weeks apart.
“If they did 500 this past Friday, three Fridays from now they will have to do 1,000 with 500 first doses and 500 second doses,” Dr. Jarvis said.
He said after Day One, Northern Light Health officials could see there was the capacity to increase and “clearly we will up to 1,000 doses when we get to those three weeks out.” Dr. Jarvis said another clinic day could be held on Wednesdays if staffing can be in place and/or there is a need.
Appointments are available at sites across the Northern Light Health system, with those ages 50 and older now eligible.
“We strongly encourage anyone who is 50 and older or a school employee or licensed childcare worker to get vaccinated,” Dr. Jarvis said. “These vaccines are safe and effective and provide us the best opportunity to stop the spread of coronavirus.”
Dr. Jarvis reminded those with appointments at the Piscataquis County Ice Arena or any site to not arrive too early but to wait in their vehicles if they do. “We do want to remind people that you should not arrive more than 10 minutes before your appointment time,” he said. “We have appointments scheduled and spaced out to minimize long lines and unnecessary wait times.”
“Whether you’re the first person in line or the last person in line, we have vaccine for you,” he added, saying no one will be turned away from their appointment if they arrive late.
“We want to make it clear that Northern Light Health will not bill anyone for a vaccine that does not have health insurance,” Dr. Jarvis said. He said those in need of a ride to their scheduled appointment can call 1-800-608-5172 to arrange for transportation, needing to call at least 48 hours in advance.
He acknowledged there is hesitancy for some about getting vaccinated and those with concerns are encouraged to talk with their primary care practitioner. “There are now tens of millions of individuals who have received both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccine around the world.,” Dr. Jarvis said. “We know that these vaccines are safe because we have seen the number of people who have gotten the vaccines. We have had very few issues at any of our sites and all of them were readily handled at the site itself.”
“It is only through us all getting vaccinated that we can protect one another,” Dr. Jarvis said.
Ice at the Dover-Foxcroft facility has been removed and the plan is for the frozen surface to return in August in time for fall Piscataquis County Ice Arena programming.