At least three large COVID-19 vaccine clinics have been planned in the central peninsula for the month of January, including two offered by Soldotna Professional Pharmacy and one offered by the Nikiski Fire Department in conjunction with the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management.
Vaccine providers throughout the central peninsula have seen a high demand for COVID-19 vaccination appointments, with some booking fully within an hour of going live.
The two clinics being offered by Soldotna Professional Pharmacy will take place at Soldotna Prep School on Jan. 23 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and at Cooper Landing School on Jan. 30 from 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. As of Tuesday at 1 p.m., all appointments at the Soldotna Prep clinic and most appointments at the Cooper Landing clinic had been booked.
Justin Ruffridge, who owns Soldotna Professional Pharmacy, said Tuesday that the biggest benefits of hosting large vaccine clinics, aside from being able to vaccinate a lot of people, is that they allow for social distancing. Ruffridge said that though the public-facing scheduling system is a bit clunky, it works really well for the providers when the clinic actually happens.
At the Soldotna Prep School building for example, there are two doors, which allow people to enter through one and exit through another. Between the two clinics, Ruffridge said around 400 people will be able to be vaccinated, including 300 during the Soldotna Prep clinic and 100 at the Cooper Landing clinic.
When people arrive at the clinic location, they are instructed to wait in their vehicles until they are notified that it is their time to be vaccinated, either by text message or by email. This prevents people from congregating in waiting areas.
A third clinic hosted by the Nikiski Fire Department in partnership with the borough’s Office of Emergency Management is scheduled for Jan. 30 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the North Peninsula Recreation Center in Nikiski.
Office of Emergency Management Emergency Manager Dan Nelson said Tuesday that around 200 people will be able to be vaccinated at the clinic, which Nikiski fire and EMT personnel as well as volunteers from the Borough Community Emergency Response Team are helping put on.
Nelson said Nikiski Fire is considered a provider on behalf of the OEM, and that OEM works in cooperation with public health on vaccine allocations to different areas throughout the borough “as needs arise.”
Those currently eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Alaska include people identified by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services in Phase 1a Tiers 1, 2 and 3 and Phase 1b Tier 1.
The tiers in Phase 1a include front-line health care workers, residents and staff of long-term care facilities, front-line EMS and fire service personnel frequently exposed to COVID patients, health care workers administering vaccines, and workers in health care settings who meet certain criteria. Phase 1b Tier 1 includes Alaskans who are 65 or older.
At all three clinics, people will be encouraged to schedule their appointment to receive their second dose of the vaccine. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which have efficacy rates of more than 90%, require two doses to be fully effective. Pfizer’s doses must be administered 21 days apart, while Moderna’s doses must be administered 28 days apart. All three central peninsula clinics are offering the Moderna vaccine, which are easier to store than the Pfizer vaccine.
Like other states, Alaska has seen a slow COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Since the first shipment of vaccines arrived in Alaska on Dec. 16, 29,029 initial doses have been administered statewide. For the months of December and January, the state received 114,800 doses, including 52,400 from Moderna and 62,300 from Pfizer. Additionally, 5,976 vaccination series have been completed statewide, meaning 5,976 people have received both of their doses.
More information about the COVID-19 vaccine in Alaska can be found at covidvax.alaska.gov.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org.