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Updated: May 28, 2021

A shot of J&J and a cuppa joe: Portland diner serves up vaccine, comfort food

Courtesy / John Phelan Becky's Diner, on Commercial Street in Portland, will be the site of a COVID-19 vaccination clinic on Wednesday and Thursday.

While the state’s large-scale clinics for COVID-19 vaccination are shutting down, smaller ones are popping up in some unlikely places. One of them is Becky’s Diner on the Portland waterfront.

Becky’s, an iconic eatery that’s served up meals to everyone from commercial fishermen to former President Bill Clinton, will serve as a walk-in vaccination site next week. Through a partnership with the MaineHealth system, adults can receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at Becky’s on Wednesday and Thursday, from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day.

Diner owner Becky Rand is even throwing in a perk — a $15 Becky’s Diner gift certificate to anyone who gets vaccinated.

“Our hope is that bringing the vaccine to our business will help it reach a segment of the population that has not received a vaccination for what is likely a wide range of reasons,” Rand said in a news release.

“The restaurant industry, like so many other industries, has seen a lot of changes over the past year due to COVID-19. The vaccination effort that has been put forth will lead us back to a sense of normalcy that the whole community can look forward to. We are thrilled to play a small role in that effort.”

More than half of Maine’s population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and in response MaineHealth recently closed its mass vaccination site at the former Scarborough Downs racetrack. Now the health care system is launching “targeted clinics” as needed, according to the news release.

“Our large clinics were instrumental in getting a significant portion of the population vaccinated, and now we’re turning our efforts to provide even more convenient vaccinations for the remaining unvaccinated members of our community,” said Dr. Joel Botler, chief medical officer of Maine Medical Center, MaineHealth's flagship hospital in Portland.

“Statewide, vaccinations have had a great and positive impact on our friends, families and neighbors. Working with wonderful community partners like Becky’s Diner keeps that critical momentum going.”

Becky’s, at 390 Commercial St., opened in 1991 and since then has become a fixture on the city’s working waterfront. The diner attracts A-list celebrities such as pop star Taylor Swift, and has been hailed by Gourmet magazine as “a slice of diner heaven.” Becky’s mainstay is local fishermen who come for early-morning breakfasts, but the diner serves meals throughout the day, currently from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Other vaccine sites, perks

MaineHealth plans to offer more community-based vaccination clinics with other partners, including Portland House of Music. Vaccinations are scheduled for Wednesday, July 7, and Monday, July 12, from 8-11 p.m. each day. The venue is at 25 Temple St., Portland.

The state of Maine is also offering incentives for people to get vaccinated. Through Memorial Day, people who receive their first shot of vaccine are eligible to receive perks including a $20 gift card from L.L.Bean Inc. or a complimentary ticket to the Portland Sea Dogs or Oxford Plains Speedway.

On Thursday, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 53% of all Mainers had received at least one vaccine dose, and nearly as many residents had received their final dose.

The incidence of COVID-19 continues to decline, with 128 new cases reported Friday morning, down from 435 cases confirmed on May 3. However, some experts have cautioned that cases could rise as a result of the Memorial Day holiday weekend and the recent reopening of businesses and public spaces nationwide.

To date, more than 67,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Maine and a total of at least 825 people in the state have died of the disease.

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