Northern Light AR Gould Hospital has adapted care and services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to meet the needs of the community. Being able to adapt quickly to ever-changing rules, procedures, and needs has been the hallmark of the hospital’s response efforts.

Another significant change is going into effect this week as the hospital transitions to a new vaccine response plan.

“When vaccines first became available, we were one of the first in the state to offer clinics,” said Jay Reynolds, MD, senior executive physician at AR Gould Hospital.  “Initially this was for our own employees, but that soon transitioned to a large community vaccine clinic at Northern Maine Community College. That site allowed us the space to safely vaccinate as many people as we could based on the vaccine allocation for the week, varying from a few hundred to over 1,000 shots per clinic.”

Now, with community interest waning and slots going unfilled during clinics, AR Gould will be ending its large vaccine clinic on the college campus and moving to smaller weekly clinics at the hospital’s Walk-In Care locations in Presque Isle and Caribou.

“When we first started, it was all about getting as many people as possible vaccinated as quickly as possible. Now we are looking for ways to expand availability to people who couldn’t make it to our larger vaccination site.”

The last first-dose clinic at NMCC takes place Thursday, May 6.  There will be two more second-dose clinics at the college before the clinic there is permanently closed on May 27. 

“We want to thank Northern Maine Community College for being such an incredible partner in this endeavor. We also want to thank all of our volunteers and the community for making COVID-19 vaccinations a success. This has been a team effort for the health of our communities,” said Dr. Reynolds.

Starting on Wednesday, May 19, AR Gould will begin offering COVID-19 vaccines at Presque Isle Walk-In Care on North Street and Caribou Walk-In Care on Bennett Drive. Vaccines will be available on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 2-8 pm.  People can register for the vaccine online or just walk in without an appointment.

“Having a smaller footprint for our vaccine clinic makes the most sense now that we have a smaller demand,” explained Dr. Reynolds. “It is our hope that these evening and weekend hours will be a better fit for people’s schedules.”

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Another way that the hospital is making vaccines more available to those who may have had trouble coming to the large community clinic is by going into the high schools in the region to vaccinate those who meet the age requirement and have parental consent for a vaccine.  The first high school clinic took place on Wednesday, May 5 in Washburn.  Future clinics are being planned at other local area high schools.

“This is part of a County-wide effort,” said Dr. Reynolds. “Each County hospital will connect with high schools in their respective areas to offer this service.”

The key, according to Dr. Reynolds, is to continue to educate the community on the benefits of the vaccine while finding ways to make the vaccine as accessible as possible to those who want it.

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