(The Center Square) – The state's top law enforcement official is threatening legal action against health care providers who administer limited COVID-19 vaccines to people who aren't authorized yet.
State Attorney General Aaron Frey sent a memo on Tuesday to the COVID-19 vaccine providers reminding them of requirements to only vaccinate people who are eligible to receive the drugs under the state's rollout plans.
"It has come to my attention that some healthcare providers are administering doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to ineligible individuals," he wrote. "Due to a limited vaccine supply, it is critical to managing the COVID-19 pandemic that the vaccine be administered in strict compliance with eligibility criteria that have been carefully developed by state and federal health officials."
Frey said his office will "consider seeking legal administrative sanctions against providers" who administer the vaccines to those who aren't among the high-risk priority groups.
"All providers are hereby put on notice that they must carefully adhere to all applicable requirements and not administer the COVID-19 vaccine to any individual who does not make the eligibility criteria," Frey wrote.
Maine is currently in Phase 1B of is vaccine rollout, which includes individuals 70 and older. The state has already vaccinated health care workers, police officers, firefighters and other first responders. Residents between the ages of 65 and 69, those with certain preexisting health conditions and certain essential workers will be eligible in later stages of the vaccine rollout.
Most Mainers won't get access to the vaccine for many months, state health officials have cautioned.
Like most states, Maine's distribution of COVID-19 vaccines has been constrained by federal shortages as elderly residents struggle to make appointments to get their shots.
Last week, Gov. Janet Mills ripped into the state's largest health care system for vaccinating all of its 22,000 employees and out-of-state contractors.
Mills said with shortages of the vaccines keeping many Mainers waiting the health care system's decision to vaccinate its workers "was an inexcusable act."
As of Wednesday, at least 255,849 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in the state, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said earlier this week he is hopeful the state will begin to see larger shipments of vaccines as the federal government ramps up distribution.