Maine COVID-19 vaccine clinic sees ‘tears of joy’ from parents of young children

SANFORD, Maine — As her 19-month-old son Wilder Lynch squirmed in her arms, Jesse Cinquegrano tapped her phone and tried to figure out which COVID-19 vaccine would serve her family best.

The Sanford vaccine clinic looked the same as many others, except that the worker in front of the Biddeford mother was using Gary, a stuffed gorilla, to entertain Wilder while explaining the differences between Pfizer and Moderna regimens for children younger than 5.

Pfizer is a three-shot regimen with the third dose coming at least two months after the last. Moderna’s two-dose program is finished after a month. Cinquegrano and her partner de ella had gotten the Pfizer shot and initially thought their kids would too.

But the timing proved important. They chose Moderna for Wilder and his 3-year-old brother, Bastian, looking forward to more normal lives over two years into the pandemic.

“It’s been really tough because I stay at home with them, which is much easier than going to school, but we lost a lot of socialization because of that,” Cinquegrano said.

A man and child sit under a banner at a walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Sanford on Thursday, June 23, 2022. The free clinic began vaccinating children under 5 on Tuesday. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

It is the kind of calculus Maine parents are making during the first week of vaccine availability for children under 5. Parents who rushed to get children vaccinated this week said the milestone was a relief after a long wait. Yet this rollout will probably be the slowest, with a large number of parents not rushing to get younger children vaccinated.

The Sanford clinic, run by the York County Emergency Management Agency, is a unique scene at this stage of the pandemic. It is the last mass vaccination clinic open in Maine, occupying a former Marshalls store in a shopping plaza.

Most younger children are expected to get vaccinated at pediatricians’ offices, but that requires appointments. Maine’s second-largest health provider, Brewer-based Northern Light Health, is not offering vaccines to the youngest population until next week. A mix of state laws and company policies also keeps many pharmacies from vaccinating children under 3.

So interest in the clinic has been high in the first few days, said Megan Arsenault, the deputy director of York County EMA. It primarily has served York County residents, but she said people from New Hampshire and even north of Bangor have made the trip.

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