South Peninsula Pharmacist Jill Kort holds up a vial of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 shortly after it arrived at the hospital on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020 in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

South Peninsula Pharmacist Jill Kort holds up a vial of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 shortly after it arrived at the hospital on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020 in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Seniors 65 and older can sign up for vaccines at South Peninsula Hospital at noon Monday

State opens up vaccine opportunity early for Alaskans 65 and older

Alaskans age 65 and older were able to start making appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday after the Alaska COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force moved the timeline forward, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced in a press release.

In Homer, eligible seniors in the Phase 1b, Tier 1 category can start making appointments at noon Monday, Jan. 11, for vaccines at South Peninsula Hospital. In an email on Saturday, Public Information Officer Derotha Ferraro said the hospital expects to get 600 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for free clinics scheduled next Friday and Saturday, Jan. 15 and 16. Visit www.sphosp.org for more information and to sign up. Appointments are required. People eligible in current Phase 1a categories also can sign up.

DHSS encourages people to get information on appointments by visiting the COVID-19 vaccination website at covidvax.alaska.gov. That link also has a questionnaire to review eligibility criteria that people should fill out first before seeking appointments as well as information on other tiers that will become eligible eventually.

Under the state’s vaccine allocation plan, seniors 65 and older are in the Phase 1b, Tier 1 category. Currently, vaccines are being offered to those in the Phase 1a, Tiers 1 to 3, which are the categories of long-term care residents, long-term care staff, hospital-based frontline health care workers, frontline emergency medical service and fire service workers who could be exposed to COVID-19 patients, and other health care workers who have direct contact with patient or infectious materials from patients, as well as essential health care workers.

Vaccinations for Alaskans 65 and older were scheduled to start later in January. However, after assessing supplies, the vaccine task force moved the timeline forward, according to the press release.

In a virtual press conference on Monday, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink explained how the state plans rolling out vaccines to various groups. She said health planners look at vaccine supplies, how much of an allocation the state gets over time, what clinics are set up to give the vaccine, and other factors.

“Think of it as a relay race – keep moving forward,” she said. “… The moment we can open up to the next group, we’re going to open up and move.”

Some people in tiers that had not opened up for appointments had already made appointments. In the press release, DHSS said Alaskans ages 65 and older who have already made appointments do not need to cancel those appointments.

In Homer, South Peninsula Hospital and SVT Health & Wellness Center will be offering vaccines. Ferraro said health officials have been dusting off a mass vaccine plan that had been set up in anticipation of giving vaccines in the event of a pandemic.

“We had already started doing that,” Ferraro said. “… It just wasn’t clear we would be activating it so fast.”

The hospital plan is for a mass vaccine dispensing clinic. Ferraro said state health officials are telling clinics in outlying areas they will most likely get the Moderna vaccine. That vaccine can stay in a freezer for six months and in a refrigerator for 30 days.

Patients with SVT Health & Wellness can call 907-226-2228 to be put on a list to schedule appointments. New patients can also call that number to become a patient with the clinic. Seldovia Village Tribe Marketing Director Laurel Hilts said she does not have a firm time for when vaccinations will be available, but probably later this month.

“Unlike the flu shot, this is not a public health dispensary to everybody,” Hilts said. “This is health care providers administering to patients.”

According to the hospital’s 2020 Community Health Needs Assessment, there are almost 2,900 seniors aged 65 and older on the southern Kenai Peninsula, Ferraro said.

“That’s a lot of vaccination we’ve got to roll through,” she said.

In comparison, South Peninsula Hospital did a three-day influenza vaccine clinic in the fall and SVT did a half-day clinic, administering about 500 vaccines total, Ferraro said.

Allocations are for both vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, given 28 days apart. That’s one of the challenges in setting up clinics, Ferraro said. The same system used for the first dose should be used for the second dose. Thus, if there were a mass vaccine clinic for the first dose, a similar sized clinic would need to be held for the second dose. Allocations come with all the swabs, syringes, gloves and masks needed.

Clinics also have to follow COVID-19 safety practices like social distancing in waiting rooms. Patients also will be monitored for 15 to 30 minutes after receiving the vaccine.

Unlike “first-come, first-served” clinics in the Lower 48, southern peninsula vaccinations will be by appointment, Ferraro said.

“We have a community that’s pretty receptive to that,” she said. “The Health Fair, for years we’ve always done that by appointment. I think that will be a pretty easy thing to roll out.”

SPH started administering vaccines on Dec. 17 to nurses, doctors and other staff who could have direct contact with COVID-19 patients. That group, the Phase 1a, Tier 1, category, will get their second doses soon. About 215 health care workers got their vaccines in that first batch, Ferraro said. Because of the holidays, some eligible in those and other tiers haven’t received vaccines. Ferraro said she didn’t know whether any staff has refused the vaccine. For the in-house hospital clinics, vaccines were not offered by invitation — people just signed up for it.

People with positive COVID-19 tests, quarantining because of exposure to infected people or waiting for test results, can’t get vaccines. In the first round, some health care workers fell into that category.

“The great news is with this round, we had nobody out with COVID-19 related reasons,” Ferraro said.

The next vaccine category after seniors 65 and older is Phase 1b, Tier 2. That category includes frontline essential workers ages 50 and older, including teachers; first responders; food and agriculture workers; grocery story workers; public transit workers; postal carriers; utility, water and wastewater workers in rural communities; and people living in congregate settings such as psychiatric facilities, group homes, homeless and domestic violence shelters, substance abuse residential facilities, and prisons. Alaskans aged 55-64 are in the category after that, Phase 1b, Tier 3.

Reach Michael Armstrong at marmstrong@homernews.com.

More in News

An area set up to administer doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is seen on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion 
An area set up to administer doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is seen on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020 in Soldotna, Alaska.
Large vaccine clinics to happen later this month

Clinics are being offered by Soldotna Professional Pharmacy and Nikiski Fire/OEM

Homer’s Bergen Knutson (left) and Toby Nevak (right) try to fend off Dimond’s Kaden Daniels during a Friday, Feb. 14, 2020 game at the 2020 ASAA First National Cup Division I Hockey State Championship at the Curtis D. Menard Memorial Sports Center in Wasilla, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Middle, high school sports resume

Middle and high school sport programs started back up this week as… Continue reading

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Tribe wins lawsuit in herring roe subsistence claim

Sitka Tribe of Alaska claimed state wasn’t providing “reasonable opportunity” in herring roe harvest.

Sanitization equipment is seen inside of a classroom at Kenai Middle School on Friday, Jan. 8 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
As in-person learning resumes, parents ask for more changes

Many called for allowing students in all grades to resume in-person learning five days a week or for eliminating mask requirements for student athletes while active.

Homer News file photo
Homer High School.
School announcements

School district risk level update and upcoming events

The Homer office of the Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles. (Courtesy photo Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles)
Cuts in governor’s budget would close DMV office in Homer

Policy analyst: DMV costs more to operate than it brings in

Homer City Hall. (Homer News file photo)
City to pay assessment fees on parcel eyed by moose habitat group

The Homer City Council delved into issues of land conservation at its… Continue reading

Most Read