Feb. 28—The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday reported 142 cases of the novel coronavirus and one death, as Maine prepares to expand age eligibility for immunization and secure over 11,000 doses of a newly approved vaccine.
Maine health officials plan to order 11,500 doses of Johnson & Johnson's single-dose vaccine, which the Food and Drug Administration green-lit on Saturday. And last week, Gov. Janet Mills announced that the state would prioritize age over other factors, allowing Maine to start vaccinating people in their 60s on Wednesday.
Maine's cumulative COVID-19 cases rose to 44,634 on Sunday. Of those, 35,158 have been confirmed by testing and 9,476 are considered probable cases of COVID-19. The seven-day average of new daily cases was 164.4.
Seven hundred three people have died with COVID-19 since the pandemic began in Maine. The person reported Sunday to have died was an Oxford County man in his 50s, the Maine CDC said.
As of Sunday morning, 227,023 Mainers had received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 119,835 had received their second. Out of Maine's population of 1.3 million, 16.89 percent have received their first dose, according to Maine CDC statistics.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine approved this weekend is 85 percent effective against the most severe COVID-19 illness, according to large studies carried out across multiple continents. Anticipating FDA approval, the company prepared millions of doses that can be shipped as soon as Monday.
"The more vaccines that have high efficacy that we can get into play, the better," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said before the FDA's ruling.
In a news release Saturday evening, Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said the new vaccine would arrive in Maine "in a few short days."
Mills hailed the arrival of the vaccine as a much-needed boost to the state's efforts to expand vaccination to people in their 60s, a move that she announced last week.
"As soon as we receive our allotment, we will work with health care providers to get these vaccines into the arms of Maine people as quickly and as efficiently as possible," Mills said in the same news release. "My most fundamental goal is to save lives, and this new, one-shot vaccine will help us accomplish that."
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, while about 10 percent less effective at preventing serious illness than the Pfizer or Moderna variants, requires only one dose and doesn't have to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures. That makes it an effective alternative to get shots into as many arms as possible and build widespread resistance to the disease, health officials say.
Mills announced last week that Maine would start prioritizing age above factors such as high-risk jobs or health conditions when determining eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines. Research indicates that advanced age is a strong indicator of a serious or deadly case of the disease.
Though people in their 60s will soon be able to get shots, the new distribution plan leaves out some people with high-risk medical conditions, along with front-line workers in restaurants and grocery stores, who before had a higher place in the vaccine line.
County by county as of Sunday, there had been 4,809 coronavirus cases in Androscoggin, 1,273 in Aroostook, 12,521 in Cumberland, 902 in Franklin, 908 in Hancock, 3,627 in Kennebec, 644 in Knox, 582 in Lincoln, 2,210 in Oxford, 3,919 in Penobscot, 281 in Piscataquis, 886 in Sagadahoc, 1,242 in Somerset, 586 in Waldo, 723 in Washington and 9,521 in York.
By age, 15.3 percent of patients were under 20, while 18.1 percent were in their 20s, 14.4 percent were in their 30s, 13.1 percent were in their 40s, 15.2 percent were in their 50s, 11.7 percent were in their 60s, 6.6 percent were in their 70s, and 5.5 percent were 80 or older.
Of the 72 patients with COVID-19 in Maine hospitals on Sunday, 24 were in intensive care and eight were on ventilators. The state had 119 intensive care unit beds available of a total 391, and 253 ventilators available of 319. There were also 446 alternative ventilators.
Around the world on Sunday morning, there were 113.8 million known cases of COVID-19 and 2.52 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States had 28.5 million cases and 512,000 deaths.