A graph from the Department of Health and Social Service shows how each census region did in the “Sleeves Up for Summer” campaign, which sought to increase COVID-19 vaccinations by 25% in May 2021. (Photo provided)

A graph from the Department of Health and Social Service shows how each census region did in the “Sleeves Up for Summer” campaign, which sought to increase COVID-19 vaccinations by 25% in May 2021. (Photo provided)

State falls short of 25% vaccination goal

East Aluetians Borough only region to increase vaccinations by 25%

The state wrapped up its May vaccination campaign that aimed for a 25% increase in COVID-19 vaccinations in each census bureau. Vaccination efforts continue in Homer with a free, walk-in clinic from 3-7 p.m. every Thursday through June at the Boathouse Pavilion on the Homer Spit. The single-dose Janssen vaccine and the two-dose Pfizer vaccine will be offered.

In a news briefing with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services last Thursday, June 3, Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, presented the data from the May campaign.

The Aleutians East Borough was the only census area to increase by the goal.

“Big shoutout to Eastern Aleutians Borough for increasing vaccine rate in the month of May by 34% — this didn’t come easily,” she said. “In general, every borough increased their vaccine rates in the month of May.”

The Aleutians West Borough and Bristol Bay areas were the other two regions in the top three. In the Kenai Peninsula Borough, the vaccination rate increased by 5.8% in the month of May.

The North Slope Borough, Haines Borough and Skagway Municipality were in the bottom three. Zink said the caveat to some of the boroughs that didn’t increase vaccinations by a wider margin was that they had high rates to begin with.

Statewide, approximately 33% of Alaskans across all ages were fully vaccinated by the end of April. By the end of May, that number jumped slightly to 38%, including the newly eligible 12 to 15 age group.

As of Tuesday, 47% of Alaskans 12 and older were fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The Kenai Peninsula Borough continues to rank third-lowest in percentages of those fully vaccinated, with 41% compared to Juneau at 67%. In the borough, 44% had received at least one dose.

Of peninsula seniors 65 and older, 62% were fully inoculated as of Tuesday and almost 64% have received at least one dose.

As of Tuesday, 286,928 Alaskans age 12 and older are fully vaccinated, with 323,058 having received at least one dose.

According to DHSS officials, there are currently eight boroughs that have greater than a 70% vaccination rate for people 12 and over.

Zink said there are about 1,000 new vaccinations per day.

“Sometimes it feels like this is going slow, but there are still a lot of people getting vaccinated,” she said.

The team reiterated that since Jan. 1, more than 98% of COVID hospitalizations have been of unvaccinated people.

State Epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin said during Thursday’s press briefing that there is ongoing research about the chronic effects of COVID-19.

“I suspect this will continue to be an area where clinicians are going to be seeing lots of patients coming through in the months ahead dealing with long-COVID issues,” he said.

McLaughlin said he thinks medical personnel will see long-term ramifications of COVID in hospitals for the rest of this year and probably into next year.

As an incentive to get more Alaskans vaccinated for COVID-19 on the southern peninsula, anyone getting the jab at the pop-up clinics will receive $40 in Homer Bucks, the local currency sponsored by the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center that can be spent at area businesses. The incentive program will be available through June for anyone who receives a vaccine at weekly Thursday clinics on the Spit. It also has been expanded to anyone getting vaccinated at the COVID clinic on Bartlett Street.

All participants also will be entered to win weekly drawings for $100 to $500 gift certificates at local businesses. People already vaccinated with one or two doses can show their vaccine cards or give the dates of their vaccine at the clinic to get entered in the drawing.

South Peninsula Hospital and the city of Homer offer the weekly Thursday pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinics. Nurses also will be at the clinic to talk about the COVID-19 vaccines.

The Pfizer vaccine is approved for children age 12 and older and all adults. Parental consent is required for minors. No identification is needed to get the vaccine.

The state, municipalities and local hospitals have been holding clinics this spring as part of its Sleeves Up for Summer campaign to increase the vaccination rate in Alaska.

SPH continues to offer walk-in vaccines daily from noon-5 p.m. at 4201 Bartlett Street, and by appointment at www.sphosp.org. Free COVID-19 testing is offered at this site daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, talk to your doctor or call 235-0235 for additional information.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

Grace Withers receives her second COVID-19 vaccine during the pop-up clinic on the Spit May 27. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)

Grace Withers receives her second COVID-19 vaccine during the pop-up clinic on the Spit May 27. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)

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