Dr. Ann Zink, Alaska chief medical officer, answers questions from people on the Kenai Peninsula about COVID-19 during a virtual Q&A session with borough officials on Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Alaska. (Screenshot)

Dr. Ann Zink, Alaska chief medical officer, answers questions from people on the Kenai Peninsula about COVID-19 during a virtual Q&A session with borough officials on Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Alaska. (Screenshot)

Zink joins borough officials for COVID Q&A

The event was hosted on Facebook Live.

Nearly one in four Alaskans 16 and older — 24.2% — are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to state data updated on Tuesday. 35.2% of Alaskans 16 and older have received at least one dose.

That is compared to the nationwide percentage of the population who have received at least one dose, which NPR’s COVID-19 vaccine tracker estimates is about 21.4%. NPR notes that they track vaccines among total populations, which includes children ineligible to be vaccinated.

In the Kenai Peninsula Borough, roughly one in five residents over the age of 16 — 19.63% — are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 29.9% have received at least one dose. More than half of peninsula seniors — 51.45% — are fully vaccinated. Across all age groups, about 15.7% of peninsula residents are fully vaccinated. More than 1,500 peninsula residents were vaccinated over the weekend, which saw several large-scale vaccine clinics in Soldotna, Kenai and Homer.

Kenai Public Health Nurse Manager Leslie Felts and Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink joined Office of Emergency Management Emergency Manager Dan Nelson during a live Q&A on Tuesday to answer questions from the community about COVID-19 and vaccines.

Zink reiterated much of the information the state has previously provided on vaccine. Three vaccines are currently available in Alaska: Pfizer and BiotNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines have efficacy rates of more than 90% and require two doses to be fully effective. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is one dose. Pfizer’s vaccine is available to people 16 and older, while Moderna’s and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine are available to people 18 and older.

Zink said COVID cannot move from person to person when there are so many people who are protected, Zink said.

“This is becoming a preventable disease,” Zink said. “You can prevent yourself from becoming hospitalized and dying from this disease now and we couldn’t, even just a couple of weeks ago, as a whole state.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new guidance for people who are fully vaccinated last week. People who are fully vaccinated, they said, can visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing. They can also visit with low-risk unvaccinated people from a single household indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing. They can also refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure if asymptomatic.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced last week that nursing home residents who are vaccinated against COVID-19 can visit with loved ones and all residents can enjoy more indoor visits, according to the Associated Press.

More than 575,000 individual doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been allocated to Alaska since last December. That number includes allocations for Indian Health Services (IHS) and to pharmacies participating in the CDC’s Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 vaccination, to which at least 10,480 pairs of vaccine have been allocated.

Through that program, Alaska’s pharmacy partners are Walmart Inc., Albertsons Companies, Inc. and Walgreens, meaning they receive vaccine allocations in addition to the state’s allocation. Through that program, the Kenai Walmart is able to offer the COVID-19 vaccine to people eligible to receive it. 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.

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.

The City of Kenai is offering transportation to and from vaccine clinics located in Kenai in partnership with CARTS and Alaska Cab. Rides will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis until the budgeted funds run out. In order to participate in the program, people must be going from an address located in Kenai to a clinic in Kenai and will need to provide proof of vaccination.

COVID-19 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. Testing is also available at Homer Public Health Center daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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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