This group wants to convince 30,000 holdouts in 2 Maine

Maine is one of the most vaccinated states, with two-thirds of its population fully inoculated against COVID-19.

The Maine People’s Resource Center hopes to reach people from the last third in two counties and convince them to get vaccinated.

The nonprofit organization, affiliated with the left-leaning Maine People’s Alliance, kicked off an outreach effort Wednesday, aiming to reach 30,000 Mainers in Androscoggin and Penobscot counties by the end of November and convince them to get jabbed.

Both counties have some of the lowest vaccination rates in the state. Some 58.7 percent of Androscoggin residents have been fully vaccinated, while Penobscot is at 60.7 percent, according to data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The vaccination rate is 90 percent in the ZIP code that includes Bangor and a handful of surrounding towns, outlying communities such as Bradford and Charleston are below 60 percent, according to Maine CDC data.

The Maine People’s Resource Center is dispatching canvassers to do direct outreach by approaching people in the Bangor area and connecting them to resources that make it easier for them to access vaccines, such as appointment sign-ups and transportation.  

Coordinators congregated outside the Bangor Public Library at Peirce Memorial Park on Wednesday afternoon, blaring country music and raffling off prizes to local Bangor businesses in hopes of persuading people to stop by and sign up to get the shot.

“We’re hoping to get as many people vaccinated and to educate the public as much as we can,” said Abigail St. Valle, an outreach manager with Maine People’s Alliance.

Some canvassers are using their own personal stories of getting vaccinated to encourage others to do so too, she said. One of the biggest reasons people don’t get vaccinated is due to logistics, she said. The Maine People’s Resource Center connects them to resources such as transportation to and from vaccine sites to ensure they can get jabbed.

Though COVID-19 hospitalizations have declined in Bangor in recent weeks, the disease has persisted in small, rural communities where distrust of authority is rife and vaccination rates are low.

The Maine People’s Resource Center has reached out to 6,000 people so far, St. Valle said.

Jay Bowie, a canvasser standing outside Bagel Central on Center Street, said that most people they’d spoken to had been vaccinated. Bowie’s job was reaching the “last percent” that hadn’t been vaccinated, and giving them a gentle nudge to do so, they said.

“It’s about making sure that we’re reaching our neighbors wherever they are, whether they’re rural or urban, and leaving no stone left unturned,” Bowie said.

Corvus Crump, another canvasser, had already signed up one person for a vaccine appointment at CVS in the few minutes he had been standing outside Mexicali Blues on Hammond Street.

Though most people who walked by said they were vaccinated, the unvaccinated people he has spoken to have cited ideological reasons or misinformation for not being inoculated, Crump said.

The most important point for convincing holdouts to get vaccinated is to not be judgmental and to be as open and welcoming as possible to discern what is holding them back from getting vaccinated, Crump said.

“Fire and brimstone don’t work,” he said. “Try to deal with the issues they’re having and ask questions and meet their misinformation.”

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