COVID-19. (Image via CDC)

COVID-19. (Image via CDC)

Vaccinations for 65-plus expected to continue through February

The state opened up vaccinations for Alaskans 65 and older earlier this month

Officials with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services said Monday that most of Alaska’s January vaccine allotment has been assigned, with vaccinations for the most recently opened tier to continue into February.

The state opened up vaccinations for people in Phase 1b Tier 1, or Alaskans 65 and older, earlier this month. During a Monday press briefing, officials said that there are about 90,000 people who fall into that tier and that vaccinations for that group are expected to continue through the rest of the month and into February.

The state also restructured their vaccination webpage, at covidvax.alaska.gov, so that it is easier to schedule appointments.

To date, the State of Alaska has received 114,800 initial doses of COVID-19 vaccine for the months of December 2020 and January 2021, including 62,400 doses from Pfizer and 52,400 doses from Moderna. As of Jan. 11, 29,029 initial doses of vaccines from both companies had been administered in Alaska.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced 186 new COVID-19 cases in Alaska on Monday, including seven on the Kenai Peninsula. Affected peninsula communities include Kenai with three cases, Soldotna with two cases, Other North with one case and Sterling with one case.

The new cases bring Alaska’s statewide case total to 50,394, including 48,797 residents and 1,597 nonresidents.

As of Monday, Central Peninsula Hospital had conducted 10,886 tests with 10,105 negative, 716 positive and 48 pending results. CPH was treating three patients who were COVID-positive on Monday, with no patients on ventilators and no new cases at Heritage Place Skilled Nursing facility.

CPH External Affairs Director Bruce Richards said Monday that CPH had started administering second doses of the vaccine to employees who received their first dose three weeks ago.

Both Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna’s 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.

Over the past week, the Kenai Peninsula Borough has conducted 1,611 tests and saw a positivity rate of 2.92%. To date, the borough has conducted 56,755 tests. The current statewide alert level, based on the average daily case rate for the past two weeks, is high. The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s alert level is also high at 19.7.

The state also reported three new hospitalizations and no new deaths. To date, 1,083 Alaska residents have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 and 223 people have died. Currently, there are 79 people hospitalized in Alaska who are COVID-19 positive or who are considered persons under investigation for the disease. Nine of the patients are on ventilators.

Alaska’s daily positivity rate for the past seven days, during which 35,439 tests were conducted, is 4.55%, To date, 1,357,708 tests have been conducted in Alaska.

In addition to the seven new cases on the peninsula, the state also reported 62 cases in Anchorage, 27 in Fairbanks, 13 in Bethel, 11 in Wasilla, nine in Bethel Census Area, nine in North Slope Borough, eight in Northwest Arctic Borough, six in Palmer, three in Kodiak, three North Pole, two in Kodiak Island Borough, two in Eagle River, two in Fairbanks North Star Borough, two in Juneau, two in Kusilvak Census Area, two in Nome, two in Sitka, two in Unalaska, two in Utqiagvik and one each in Chugiak, Denali Borough, Other Copper River and Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area. One resident case was also reported with a location still under investigation.

Three new nonresident cases were also reported. One was reported in Anchorage. One was reported in Fairbanks and one has a location still under investigation.

Who can receive the COVID-19 vaccine right now?

In determining who is able to get the COVID vaccine and when, the state considers recommendations from the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Vaccine allocation is divided into three phases.

Those phases are divided into sub-phases. Those sub-phases are then divided further into tiers. Front-line health care workers, along with residents and staff of long-term care facilities were given first priority in Phase 1a, Tier 1.

Phase 1a, Tier 2 includes front-line EMS and Fire Service personnel frequently exposed to COVID-19 patients, community health aides/practitioners and health care workers providing vaccinations. Vaccinations for people in Phase 1a, Tiers 1 and 2 began on Dec. 15.

Phase 1a, Tier 3 includes workers in health care settings who are at highest risk of contracting COVID-19 and who are essential to the health care infrastructure who meet specific criteria outlined by the state. Vaccinations for people in Phase 1a, Tier 3 began on Jan. 4.

People in Phase 1b Tier 1, meaning Alaskans who are 65 and older, were able to schedule appointments to receive the vaccine last week, with the first appointments beginning Jan. 11.

Testing locations on the Kenai Peninsula

On the central peninsula, testing is available at Capstone Family Clinic, K-Beach Medical, Soldotna Professional Pharmacy, Central Peninsula Urgent Care, Peninsula Community Health Services, Urgent Care of Soldotna, the Kenai Public Health Center and Odyssey Family Practice. Call Kenai Public Health at 907-335-3400 for information on testing criteria for each location.

In Homer, testing is available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily at the lower level of South Peninsula Hospital’s Specialty Clinic as well as through SVT Health & Wellness clinics in Homer, Seldovia and Anchor Point. Call ahead at the hospital at 907-235-0235 and at the SVT clinics at 907-226-2228.

In Ninilchik, NTC Community Clinic is providing testing on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The testing is only for those traveling, symptomatic, needing testing for medical procedures, or with a known exposure after seven days. Only 20 tests will be offered per day. To make an appointment to be tested at the NTC Community Clinic, call 907-567-3970.

In Seward, testing is available at Providence Seward, Seward Community Health Center, Glacier Family Medicine and North Star Health Clinic.

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

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