With the help of dozens of volunteers, South Peninsula Hospital and community partners vaccinated more than 700 senior citizens against the novel coronavirus over the weekend in the first large-scale vaccine clinic to be held on the Kenai Peninsula.
Together with the Alaska Public Health Center and the City of Homer, the hospital was able to vaccinate 715 seniors over last Friday and Saturday at a clinic set up at Christian Community Church. The city’s Public Works Department handled parking and traffic outside, while members of local fire and EMS departments aided in the administration of the event, some of them even helping administer the vaccines.
Other volunteers hailed from the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and local Rotary clubs.
The hospital was given 600 doses of the Moderna vaccine by the state of Alaska when the state’s vaccination rollout moved on to include those in Phase 1b, Tier 1, or anyone over the age of 65. The hospital combined those doses with some Moderna vaccine left over from recent in-house clinics for health care staff to offer 700 appointments. There was a waitlist for the vaccine clinic, and Public Information Officer Derotha Ferraro told the Homer City Council at a recent meeting that about 1,000 people selected the option on the hospital’s website to be notified when more vaccine doses become available.
There are no additional clinics planned at this time and the hospital does not know when it will get its next vaccine allocation from the state, Ferraro wrote in an email.
When more vaccine information does become available, it will be posted on the hospital’s website at sphosp.org. Those interested can also call the vaccine information line at 907-435-3188.
On Friday morning, just about an hour after the event began, local senior Peter Zuyus rolled up his sleeve in preparation to be vaccinated. He and his wife have been taking precautions and staying isolated throughout the pandemic, and he was excited to get the first dose.
Zuyus is an advocate for senior citizens and their interests both on the peninsula and in the state of Alaska. He’s executive director of the nonprofit organization Seniors of Alaska.
“I want to encourage all seniors to continue to make their reservations and to get their vaccination as soon as possible,” he said.
Zuyus, and many others, remarked how well the vaccine clinic went and how well organized it was.
“The clinic went flawlessly and was excellently formulated and managed,” he said.
Zuyus likened the experience to a “well oiled machine.” Seniors were directed to a parking spot outside Christian Community Church, after which they were screened at the door and given a disposable mask to wear. Next was a section to check in and fill out the necessary paperwork, followed by the actual administering of the vaccine dose.
Finally, seniors were monitored for 15-30 minutes by more volunteers, while making their follow up appointment for the second dose of the vaccine at the same time. A second clinic like the one held this past weekend will be organized to administer the second doses for all 715 people who got their first dose.
“I’m feeling very good,” Zuyus said about the experience.
He said he had no side effects and felt fortunate to have gotten the vaccine. The majority of the 700 appointments offered filled online within just eight minutes.
Now that vaccines are approved for use and being offered, it’s no longer a medical issue of whether to get one, Zuyus said — it’s a logistical issue as the state continues its rollout bit by bit.
As far as the logistics of the Homer clinic go, Ferraro said the hospital’s history of working with community partners helped the event get organized in a timely manner.
“I think our history of working together as a community through the city and partnerships is coming alive,” she said on Friday. “And so the logistics at the event have been seamless.”
Ferraro said going forward, the hospital will try to allocate more people to phone lines for those who call in with questions about their appointment and the process.
“There’s 700 appointments, and each one of them is a person that has concerns and questions and wants to be prepared,” she said. “And it’s not just a computer click. It is an actual conversation.”
Elsewhere on the peninsula, vaccine clinics are scheduled for Jan. 23 in Soldotna, and on Jan. 30 in Cooper Landing and Nikiski.
Jenny Carroll, special projects and communications coordinator for the city, said the event built on the relationships the city began making at the start of the pandemic. City staff are part of a Unified Command team that includes people from South Peninsula Hospital, Homer Public Health and the Homer Volunteer Fire Department.
“Just leveraging each other’s strengths,” Carroll said. “The city doesn’t have a health department, but we have a very cooperative fantastic hospital to work with. We have public safety personnel who are assisting with the medical side of the event, and then we have our public works people … planning going into this as well.”
The event was a joint effort using the strengths of each organization, Carroll said.