4,400 virus vaccine doses exceeded temperature in Maine

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Thousands of doses of coronavirus vaccine exceeded temperature requirements during their shipment to Maine, public health authorities said on Tuesday.

The 4,400 doses of Moderna's vaccine exceeded the required temperature during their journey to 35 sites in the state, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Nirav Shah said. He said the sites have set the vaccine doses aside and will receive replacement doses on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Operation Warp Speed and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are investigating how and why the errors happened, Shah said. He said other states have reported similar problems during the early phase of vaccine rollout.

Monitoring systems the state is employing helped detect the mistakes, he said.

“Our goal among all of this is to make sure that vaccine that comes into the state is safe, effective and viable before it goes into any arms,” Shah said. “This news is concerning but it’s important to note this is how the system works.”

The 35 sites have been asked to separate the vaccines that have been identified as exceeding the required temperature and not use them, Shah said. None had been administered, he said. Shah said further investigating will determine whether they can still be used.

More than 80,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine have been administered in Maine so far.

In other pandemic-related news:

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THE NUMBERS

The positivity rate in the state has started to trend up again after showing some signs of flattening.

The latest average positivity rate in Maine is 9.83%. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Maine the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test specimens using data from The COVID Tracking Project.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 8.65% on Jan. 4 to 9.83% on Jan. 18.

Public health authorities in Maine have reported more than 34,000 positive cases of the virus since the start of the pandemic. They've also reported 519 deaths.

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VACCINE ROLLOUT

Maine’s health care providers have started scheduling COVID-19 vaccines for those 70 and older, despite a short supply of doses.

Gov. Janet Mills’ office has published a list online showing where people in that category can schedule an appointment.

MaineHealth was flooded with more than 18,000 calls Monday, the first day people could request an appointment, John Porter, spokesperson for the health care network, told the Portland Press Herald. That number is equal to Maine’s statewide weekly supply of vaccines.

“Patient vaccinations are rolling out across the system this week,” he said, while noting “demand way exceeds the supply right now.”

The rollout comes after Mills announced last week that those 70 and older and younger adults with high-risk health conditions would be moved closer to the front of the line for vaccinations.

Shah said scheduling for younger residents will take place in the future.

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REMOTE LEARNING

Schools in one of the largest cities in the state are going remote on Tuesday because of a lack of bus drivers.

Bangor School Department interim superintendent Kathy Harris-Smedberg said decisions remain to be made about the rest of the week. Meals will still be available at schools, Harris-Smedberg said.

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PROTEST CANCELED

The annual “Hands Around The Capitol” event that protests the supreme court decision legalizing abortion has been canceled.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland announced that Saturday’s event was canceled “due to safety reasons.”

The event has been each year since the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision. During the event, participants gather around the Statehouse and a bell is rung for each year since the ruling.

Organizers had previously said the event would carry on and urged participants to wear masks. But the possibility of violent demonstrations at statehouses motivated organizers to cancel, said diocese spokesman Dave Guthro.

“The organizers cancelled it over the general threats of violence to statehouses around the country. No specific threat,” he said. “Organizers felt they couldn’t guarantee safety of participants this year, so they made the tough call.”