FRYEBURG — There were no lines and no waiting at noon Monday at the COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Fryeburg Fairgrounds.
Mark Murphy of Waterford, who did not have an appointment, walked up and got his shot within 10 minutes.
“It’s the thing to do, it’s what people want you to do,” Murphy said of the reason he got his shot.
Monday was the last day of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s mobile vaccine clinic in Fryeburg. It now packs up and moves to Turner, where, as it did in Fryeburg, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be administered.
When the vaccines started to become available to the public in March some people described it as a game-changer and a step toward freedom after more than a year of the pandemic. But Murphy’s attitude was a bit more casual while he received the vaccine.
Other than not having to wear a mask in some situations, “it won’t change my life at all,” Murphy said.
He’s also not worried about getting the J&J shot, which last month was put on hold because of reports of serious but rare blood clots in women.
Janice Petersen of West Baldwin, who was also a walk-in on Monday, did have concerns.
“Oh, I really wanted to wait like a year to see about the side effects. I really, really did,” Petersen said. But where she works, at Vulcan Electric in Porter, “if we can get enough people vaccinated,” restrictions on mask wearing could be eased, she said.
“I said, ‘All right. I’ll bite the bullet and do it.’ I’m still iffy about it, but it’s too late now,” she said with a laugh.
Getting her shot without an appointment “was really quick and easy,” Petersen said, calling the clinic “very well organized.”
Brianna Taylor of Limerick said she got her shot Monday because she works with children with disabilities and wants to protect them.
“I’m worried about their safety,” she said.
A few hours before the clinic was set to leaving town, FEMA spokesman Patrick Boland, who travels with the mobile clinic touring Maine, said the operation went well.
“We’re satisfied. There’s been a good turnout in the community. People have been great here,” Boland said. “The town of Fryeburg went out of the way to help us in the mission to get vaccinations up and running.”
The clinic administered just under 600 vaccines during the four days: 165 on Friday, 205 on Saturday, 105 on Sunday and 119 on Monday.
Initially there were 130 appointments booked for Monday, “but we’ve seen some cancellations. People are getting vaccinations at other sites,” Boland said.
The number of people getting shots in Fryeburg was smaller than the clinic in Biddeford, where 500 vaccines were given a day, he said. “But this is a smaller population,” adding that 500 vaccinations represents more than 10 percent of Fryeburg’s 3,400 population.
The FEMA mobile clinic first offered walk-in vaccines in Windham several weeks ago. Giving shots without appointments “has been tremendously successful,” Boland said. “It’s so important to people. It’s hard to plan out in advance.”
The walk-ins now number one for every two appointments, he said. More walk-in’s will continue to increase “all over Maine,” he said, adding it will help get more people vaccinated.
Appointments are important, he said, it helps officials monitor and track the vaccine, but he encouraged anyone to walk up and get protection from COVID-19. “We have enough room, plenty of vaccine.”
When someone shows up for a vaccine at the FEMA clinic, they receive a preliminary medical screening. The clinic has a team of nurses and a doctor or nurse practitioner on hand, as well as a pharmacy where the vaccine is prepared.
All of the administration is done in outdoor air in tents.
After the registration and screening is completed in one tent, people proceed to another tent where nurses give the shots. After, those who received shots wait 15 minutes before leaving to ensure they’re feeling well.
When asked about reception to the J&J vaccine since the FDA lifted the pause, Boland said “it hasn’t been an issue. Most people who come want a single dose.”
The blood clots are terrible, he said, but rare.
“It’s hard not to be concerned, but the flip side is this has saved thousands and thousands of lives,” Boland said.
All of the vaccines are under experimental use authorization by the FDA but are safe, he said.
“We’re in a national crisis. We’re trying to get out of this disaster,” Boland said.
There have been nearly 600,000 deaths in the United States from COVID-19, and that “doesn’t do justice to the suffering this has caused,” Boland said. “So we’re thrilled to be here.”
On Tuesday the FEMA clinic will move to Turner. It will be open on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at the Boofy Quimby Memorial Center.
Appointments can be made by calling the Community Vaccination line at 1-888-445-4111, or going to vaccinateME.maine.gov.