OXFORD — A mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinic is coming to the Oxford Casino on Monday with the one-and-done Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew announced Tuesday.
The mobile clinic will be a “groundbreaking mobile vaccination unit, the second in New England provided to Maine by the Biden Administration and (Federal Emergency Management Agency),” Lambrew said during the state’s biweekly COVID-19 news briefing.
Appointments are required, Lambrew said, adding that Oxford County residents can make an appointment by calling the state’s community vaccination number: 1-888-445-4111.
It will be at the Oxford Casino parking lot on Route 26 for five days through April 16. The mobile unit will be open Monday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“We are honored to work with FEMA, the state of Maine, Oxford County and local authorities to bring COVID-19 vaccines to more people in Oxford Hills,” Jack Sours, general manager and vice president of Oxford Casino Hotel and Event Center, said in a statement. “This endeavor continues our commitment to safety and being a strong community partner during these unprecedented times.”
Calling it “exciting” to be involved and hosting the mobile unit’s first stop in Maine, Sours said the clinic will be held in a spare parking lot with 100 spaces, which is not being used. He quickly agreed to host the clinic when the state approached the casino about hosting the weeklong vaccination event, Sours said.
The mobile clinic will administer about 250 shots a day.
“This will be good, not just for the folks in Oxford, but folks in the surrounding communities as well, who would not otherwise have access to the vaccine” Oxford Town Manager Adam Garland said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for those who want to receive the vaccine who might not have had the chance otherwise.”
Garland said he was approached by the Oxford County Emergency Management Agency about the possibility of hosting the vaccine site. They worked together with the Fire and Police departments to work out the logistics.
From Oxford, over the next two months, the mobile clinic will travel to 10 other communities, including Auburn, Fryeburg and Turner. The Auburn stop will take place from June 9-12 at the Downtown Auburn Transportation Center at Great Falls Plaza.
The mobile unit will be in Turner from May 5-7 at Boofy Quimby Memorial Center at 96 Howes Corner Road.
Information on those locations and making appointments are listed on the state’s vaccination website.
The communities it will visit were selected because they’re deemed rural and underserved, the commissioner said. The federal government uses index measures to figure out what communities are most vulnerable and need help before, during and after disasters, she said.
Another consideration of where the mobile unit visits was what other places, or lack of places, where local residents can get a COVID-19 shot near where they live.
“The mobile unit will complement our existing effort, allowing us to get to people in remote, underserved communities, and allowing them to more easily get their vaccines,” Lambrew said. “As Gov. Mills stated, we are grateful to the Biden Administration for its commitment to partnering with the state to get people vaccinated, and FEMA for their outstanding work.”
FEMA has provided vaccinations in big stadiums in urban areas and is now adding rural, underserved communities to help protect people from contracting COVID-19.
The mobile clinics will be working with community-based groups such as veteran organizations and local health providers to raise awareness of its arrival in town. “It will only be there for a few days. We do urge people when they hear about the mobile vaccine clinic coming to get an appointment,” Lambrew said.
The mobile clinics will be staffed primarily by state and local workers. “We’re working with town and city managers to make sure we have ground support,” the commissioner said.