Rural Maine’s lower vaccination rate extends a COVID-19 plateau – Community News

Rural Maine’s lower vaccination rate extends a COVID-19 plateau

Vaccination gaps in rural Maine areas are among the main factors perpetuating a recent COVID-19 plateau that is unlikely to abate anytime soon, experts say.

New cases in Maine have remained consistent as the surge caused by the delta variant has begun to slow in other parts of the country. The state has the ninth-highest increase in the number of cases of illness in the past 14 days, according to a New York Times tracker, despite the fifth-highest vaccination rate among states.

Rural areas with lower vaccination coverage are taking the brunt of the wave. Somerset, Franklin and Oxford counties — three of the four least vaccinated counties in Maine — have seen the highest rates of new cases during that period, with rates between 82 and 101 new cases per 100,000 residents. Cumberland County, where 80 percent of eligible residents have received their last dose, saw just 31 new cases per 100,000 people during the same period.

Those bags will continue to sustain the virus, public health experts said. Recent issues suggest Maine’s early ability to withstand spikes better than other states may be a disadvantage in curbing this surge, as relatively few people compared to other states have COVID-19 at any point during the pandemic. have incurred.

“What that means is that in those unvaccinated rural parts of the state where there’s no background immunity when the virus is introduced, it’s metaphorical and almost like gasoline with fire,” Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease, told me. Control and Prevention at Maine. Monday public. “It just rips through with no immunity to stop it.”

A joint COVID-19 modeling project by researchers from Yale, Harvard and Stanford states that less than 33 percent of Mainers have ever contracted the virus. Only Hawaii and Puerto Rico have smaller percentages. In North Dakota, the state with the highest number of cases during the pandemic, 68 percent of people are likely to have had COVID-19. Early success in containing the virus means Maine still has the third lowest case rate of any state during the pandemic.

The challenge here now lies in the unevenness of the state’s vaccination rate, which allows the virus to smoulder in those communities after the variant slowly arrived in Maine, said Dr. Noah Nesin, the chief physician of the Penobscot Community Health Center.

“Obviously this rise will have a broad shoulder at the bottom and not a nice clock curve like others,” he said. “It will take a while to reduce.”

This could pose greater dangers to people with underlying medical conditions, even if they have been vaccinated, said Dr. Gibson Parrish, a Yarmouth epidemiologist who worked for the US CDC. While recent childhood vaccine approvals and mandates could raise rates, states will need to close vaccination gaps quickly to slow the surge, he said.

“I think there’s a sense that we’re in better shape than we are,” he said.