A sign is posted directing drivers to a vaccine clinic held at Beacon Occupational Health in Kenai, Alaska, on Saturday, April 10, 2021. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)

A sign is posted directing drivers to a vaccine clinic held at Beacon Occupational Health in Kenai, Alaska, on Saturday, April 10, 2021. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna to offer walk-in vaccine clinic with state grant funds

The state has about $37.5 million available for the program and is requiring 10% of the funds from each grant to be used to address health equity.

The City of Soldotna will partner with Soldotna Professional Pharmacy to offer walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinics using grant money awarded by the state, city officials announced during a Wednesday meeting of the Soldotna City Council.

City officials first floated the idea of offering a walk-in clinic last month when they had a sense of how much money they were eligible to receive under the COVID-19 Community Funding Program, which is being offered by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services to help municipalities around the state expand their COVID-19 testing and vaccination efforts. Funds are available on a reimbursement basis and must be used between March 31, 2021 and March 31, 2022.

The state has about $37.5 million available for the program and is requiring 10% of the funds from each grant to be used to address health equity in the community. DHSS defines health equity as making sure everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible.

COVID-19 vaccinations have plateaued on the Kenai Peninsula in recent weeks. Health officials estimate that between 70% and 80% of the population needs to be vaccinated in order to reach herd immunity. Borough health officials expect vaccine demand on the peninsula will drop off once about 50% of people are vaccinated. As of Thursday, state data showed that about 34.4% of people eligible to be vaccinated on the peninsula were fully vaccinated.

In selecting a walk-in vaccine clinic as the project to which they wanted to direct their grant money, city administration said it will make vaccines more accessible to people in the community who need flexible and readily available access to vaccines. Additionally, people using the walk-in clinics will not have to have access to a computer and the internet to schedule an appointment in advance.

In all, the city can spend about $195,000 in purchases eligible for reimbursement. The city expects most of the funds will be spent on clinic operating costs, including payroll for medical and administrative staff, lease or rental fees for the facility, and materials and supplies necessary to administer vaccines, among others. Money will also be used to advertise the clinic to the community.

The council voted unanimously to adopt the resolution, with council member Justin Ruffridge abstaining. Ruffridge also owns Soldotna Professional Pharmacy, which has worked closely with city and borough officials to host large-scale vaccine clinics for the community.

Queen said that while those clinics were necessary and effective in meeting initial demand for vaccines on the peninsula, she thinks clinics capable of vaccinating hundreds in a single day will be “phased out” moving forward.

“We’re entering a new stage, I believe, of community vaccination efforts where we need a new strategy, and the new strategy that we are proposing [and] that I think is going to be effective is further reducing barriers and increasing convenience for folks wanting to get a COVID-19 vaccine,” Queen said.

Council member Dave Carey was one of many who voiced support for the clinic and highlighted the success of those previously offered in Soldotna.

“This is excellent,” Carey said. “I really appreciate it … this is an excellent resolution and, again, it shows the good work that you’re doing.”

Both Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine have efficacy rates of more than 90% and take two doses to be fully effective. Pfizer doses must be administered 21 days apart, while Moderna’s doses must be administered 28 days apart.

A map of vaccine providers can be found on DHSS’ COVID-19 vaccine website at covidvax.alaska.gov. Many providers are using the state’s program to schedule appointments, which can be accessed at myhealth.alaska.gov. Instructions on how to schedule an appointment with a provider that does not use the state’s scheduling system can be found on the provider map by clicking on the icon of the provider through which people would like to schedule an appointment. Appointments at Walmart can be scheduled at walmart.com/covidvaccine.

People who would like assistance with scheduling an appointment to be vaccinated can call the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management call center. The center operates Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. 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.

The council’s full meeting can be viewed at soldotna.org.

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

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