SEARHC prepares for arrival of 600 COVID-19 vaccines
January 14, 2021
To date, more than 300 Chilkat Valley residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and hundreds more will fall into this category after a second shipment of the Moderna vaccine arrives, likely this week.
As of Wednesday, more than 10% of Haines Borough residents had received at least one dose of the vaccine, a rate well ahead of rates in the rest of the state and country. As of Tuesday, 4.9% of Alaskans had received at least one dose of a vaccine. Nationwide, the rate was 2.8%.
“We are getting a lot of vaccines in the very near future. We are hoping to do a very large clinic on Friday or Saturday,” Haines Health Center clinic administrator Stephanie Pattison said in an interview Tuesday. On Wednesday, she confirmed that 600 doses arrived in town and would be made available Friday and Saturday.
The Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) will contact those eligible to receive the vaccine, providing instructions for how to make an appointment to receive a shot.
Residents interested in receiving the vaccine must register with SEARHC in order to be on the vaccination list. They can do so online at https://covid19.searhc.org/ or by calling SEARHC at 766-6300. They will be asked to provide contact information and information related to age, co-morbidities and profession.
Pattison said SEARHC uses the information it collects to assign a prioritization number to patients ranging from 1 to 7. Those assigned a 1, the highest priority, include frontline healthcare workers and first responders. The lowest priority category, 7, includes those under the age of 30 who are students, unemployed or employed in a field that isn’t considered essential. SEARHC’s prioritization system is based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and Alaska COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Committee recommendations.
Pattison said the hope is that the latest shipment will allow the clinic to give an initial dose of the vaccine to everyone priority 4b or higher, which translates to those 60 years or older, and an assortment of essential workers.
The first vaccine shipment that arrived in Haines, a shipment of the Pfizer vaccine on Dec. 18, was used to vaccinate frontline healthcare workers, first responders, those in assisted living facilities and residents 80 years or older. The roughly 100 people who received injections from the initial shipment completed the vaccination process last week and early this week, receiving second doses of the vaccine.
In late December, the Haines Health Center began vaccinating people over the age of 75 and essential workers including school staff after the community received its first shipment of the Moderna vaccine. Those who received the first dose of the Moderna vaccine in late December are scheduled to receive the booster shot toward the end of January.
Pattison attributes the high vaccination rate in Haines to the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium’s preparation.
“We are getting people vaccinated more quickly. Part of that has to do with the fact that our organization has really put a lot of thought and energy into ensuring it rolled out smoothly from the beginning,” Pattison said, noting the free flu vaccine clinics SEARHC offered last fall. “The massive flu inoculation was a trial run to see what worked for us and each community.”
Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were shown to be more than 90% effective at preventing people from getting sick with symptomatic COVID-19 during clinical trials. At present, it is unknown whether the vaccines also prevent people from transmitting the coronavirus to others. Experts are currently conducting studies to determine whether this is possible, according to the CDC website. Until more is known, health experts recommend that those who receive the vaccine continue to observe pandemic practices including masking and social distancing.