RN Rachel Verba (right) administers a dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to Dr. Chris Michelson (left) on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Bruce Richards/CPH)

RN Rachel Verba (right) administers a dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to Dr. Chris Michelson (left) on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Bruce Richards/CPH)

Kenai will help pay for rides to vaccine clinics

The Kenai City Council approved $5,000 for the program on Wednesday

The City of Kenai will help provide transportation to COVID-19 vaccine clinics located in Kenai following a unanimous vote by the city council in favor of the program, to which they allocated $5,000.

Council member Teea Winger, who introduced the program, said there is a need for transportation services in the community generally and especially for people trying to receive their COVID-19 vaccine.

“I know transportation has always been an issue for people within our community,” Winger said. “We do have people that can’t afford those cab rides.”

According to a memo from Winger to the council, the city has reached out to three cab businesses in Kenai, as well as to the Central Area Rural Transit System (CARTS), to contract transportation services. In order to qualify for the program, people would need to be departing from a location with a Kenai address and be going to a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Kenai. Additionally, program participants will need to provide proof of vaccination to the provider for rides.

The council approved $5,000 for the program, which will offer rides on a first-come, first-served basis until the budgeted funds are exhausted or until July 1, whichever comes first. Council member Henry Knackstedt proposed adding the July 1 deadline, which coincides with the city’s fiscal year.

The process of scheduling COVID-19 vaccine appointments has been confusing in Alaska and across the country. As of Thursday, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services COVID-19 provider locator map did not show any vaccine providers in Kenai, however, Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander said that they are expecting clinics in Kenai to open soon.

Ostrander said that the Kenai Safeway has already received a shipment of the vaccine and clinic at the Kenai Senior Center earlier this week. Additionally, Ostrander said that the Kenai Fire Department was approved to provide vaccines and they are scheduling a vaccine clinic for February.

“We are starting to see a few and I think now that the fire department has been approved to provide those vaccines, hopefully we’ll be able to provide them as there is need,” Ostrander said.

There are still limits on who can receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Alaska. As of Thursday, Phase 1a and Phase 1b Tier 1 were open. People included in those groups include front-line health care workers, Alaskans over the age of 65 and front-line EMS and fire service personnel, among others.

Alaskans can check whether or not they are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the state’s vaccine website at covidvax.alaska.gov. Alaskans can check COVID-19 vaccine appointment availability at myhealth.alaska.gov.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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