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Dr. Andy Powell of Southern Maine Health Care receiving his vaccination at the SMHC clinic in Sanford.

While most of the recent media focus has been on the high volume “mega center” Covid vaccination clinics being set up around the state, here in Sanford, Southern Maine Health Care has been quietly going about the business of getting York County residents vaccinated against the virus.

At the Sanford Medical Center (formerly Goodall Hospital), six vaccine clinics have been held so far, vaccinating approximately 1,440 people in Phases 1A (health care workers and first responders) and 1B (people age 70 and over) to date. Vaccinations are given by appointment only, scheduled through the MaineHealth call center. Appointments are scheduled about a week in advance, to ensure availability of both vaccine and staff.

SMHC Communications Director Allison Kenty said there have been a few no-shows, but they have been able to backfill those slots so neither vaccine nor staff time is wasted.

Thirteen staff members are needed to run the clinic, including a manager. There is also always a physician assigned to take calls or answer questions that arise. “It has been a privilege for myself and our Chief Medical Officer, Michael Albaum, MD, to help plan and play a part in this vaccination effort. Each person who receives a vaccine is leaving our clinics feeling more reassured, visibly relieved, and very appreciative. Each vaccinated person also represents an advancement against the fight against Covid-19, toward a healthier community,” said Susan Keiler, Southern Maine Health Care’s COVID Vaccine Administrative Lead.

On Wednesday, the new high volume Scarborough Downs clinic began vaccinating patients. Earlier this week, Dr. Nirav Shah of Maine CDC confirmed publicly that a high volume site is being planned for Sanford as well. Seacoast Online is reporting that York County Commissioners will vote on Friday, February 5 to authorize a lease for the former Marshall’s store at the Center For Shopping in South Sanford, for the clinic.

Sanford City Manager Steven Buck told the City Council this week that the high volume center is being set up by York County Unified Command, which is comprised of the Incident Management Team (made up of York County Emergency Management Agency and Sanford police and fire personnel), SMHC/MaineHealth, and York Hospital coordinating with Maine CDC. York County EMA Director Art Cleaves said this week that the new Sanford center will be staffed by employees from both SMHC/MaineHealth and York Hospital. The goal is to have it open by February 15.

A note to our readers age 70 and over: If you have registered with MaineHealth and have not received a call back yet, please know that they are only making appointments a week in advance, once they know how much vaccine they will receive. They do not want to schedule appointments and then have to cancel them. Even if you have not received a call back, you still have a place in line, and when your turn comes they will call you. If you are age 70 or over and have not registered, please call (877) 780-7545 to do so. If you are under age 70 you may call the same number to pre-register and save your place in line. You do not need to be a patient of MaineHealth to register with them.

York Hospital is also scheduling vaccinations at yorkhospital.com/vaccines/ or by calling (207) 752-8685, but they do not register patients in advance, only when they have the vaccine in hand. The state is working on setting up a statewide online vaccine registration portal, but it will likely be weeks before that is available.

Part of the team at the SMHC vaccine clinic.
Dr. Sandeep Reddy gets his shot.
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