Central Peninsula Hospital has paused its employee COVID-19 vaccine mandate, after a federal lawsuit challenging the ruling has temporarily blocked its enforcement.
President Joe Biden’s administration in early November issued an emergency regulation requiring employees of health care facilities that receive federal funding to get the vaccine, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Soon thereafter, Alaska joined nine others in suing the Biden administration over the mandate.
Also named in the complaint are the states of Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota and New Hampshire.
Bruce Richards, the external affairs director at CPH, said there is a moratorium on the vaccine deadlines outlined by CMS.
“There is no mandate while the injunction is in place,” he said.
Originally, the federal government gave health care workers until Dec. 6 to get their first dose and until Jan. 4 to be fully vaccinated against COVID.
Richards said 69% of CPH employees were fully vaccinated as of early this week — which includes hospital staff as well as the those working at CPH’s clinic and Heritage Place long-term care facility.
Some staff, he said, have already requested exemptions to the mandate.
Alaska’s COVID cases have been declining recently. The state this fall saw some of its highest cases rates and deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
At the peak of the spike in Alaska — on Sept. 13 — the seven-day rolling case average was 884.4 per 100,000 people. On Monday the weeklong average was 235.3 per 100,000.
COVID hospitalizations and deaths have also been decreasing statewide, although health officials are now concerned about the omicron strain of the virus, which was first identified in South Africa and deemed a variant of concern over Thanksgiving weekend.
There have been omicron cases detected in 20 states, the New York Times reported Tuesday, but none have yet been sequenced in Alaska.
Getting a vaccine
COVID-19 vaccines do not cost money.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved for everyone 5 years and older, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines are approved for anyone 18 and older. Pfizer and Moderna boosters and additional doses are also recommended for anyone 18 and older and six months out from their second dose. The J&J vaccine booster is recommended two months after the primary dose.
Many organizations on the central peninsula, including Walmart, Walgreens, the Kenai Fire Department and Kenai Public Health, offer vaccines.
Additionally, Soldotna Professional Pharmacy hosts a walk-in clinic in its strip mall storefront at the “Y” intersection of the Sterling and Kenai Spur highways. The clinic has extended its hours to Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Vaccination appointments can also be scheduled through the online portal PrepMod, which can be accessed at myhealth.alaska.gov. A map of vaccine providers can be found on DHSS’ COVID-19 vaccine website at covidvax.alaska.gov.
People who would like assistance scheduling a vaccination appointment can call the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management call center. The center operates Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon. The central peninsula call center can be reached at 907-262-4636. The Homer call center can be reached at 907-235-4636. The Seward call center can be reached at 907-224-4636.
In Kenai, testing is available at the Chignik Lagoon Clinic, Odyssey Family Practice, Kenai Public Health Center and Capstone Clinic.
In Soldotna, testing is available at the Peninsula Community Health Center, Urgent Care of Soldotna, Walgreens and Soldotna Professional Pharmacy.
In Seward, testing is available at Providence Medical Center, Chugachmiut-North Star Health Clinic, Glacier Family Medicine, Seward Community Health Center and the Safeway pharmacy. The Seward Community Health Center is offering drive-thru testing Tuesdays only.
In Homer, testing is available at South Peninsula Hospital, or through other area health care providers at Seldovia Village Tribe Health and Wellness, Kachemak Medical Group and Homer Medical Center.