The state allowing all residents 16 and older to be vaccinated against COVID-19, means that four-fifths of Juneau is now able to sign up for doses of free vaccine.
More than 4,200 residents will be getting their first doses this month, said Mila Cosgrove, deputy city manager and head of the City and Borough of Juneau Emergency Operations Center.
“We are fortunate to be a leader in having our population vaccinated,” Cosgrove said in a phone interview. “The governor has opened the tiers wide open. I think as many as possible getting the vaccine is positive for the community.”
Vaccine clinics are accelerating for the city, as well as other organizations, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs as well as private providers. The Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium has been key in supporting city clinics in Juneau, Cosgrove said.
“Here in Juneau, we’ve been very appreciative of SEARHC’s participation,” Cosgrove said. “The clinics from the 15th to 20th, the Phizer allocation will be coming from SEARHC. They’re also helping to vaccinate the folks up in the Legislature.”
The city is also looking forward to beginning to vaccinate high schoolers by the end of the school year, Cosgrove said.
“We are hoping by the end of March to be closing on at least 50% of people with a first dose in the arm,” Cosgrove said. “I think Dr. Fauci is quoted saying that vaccines will be authorized for kids 12 up by the time schools come back.”
“About a quarter of all Alaskans have started their vaccine journey. 17% have both doses,” said Alaska chief medical officer Dr. Anne Zink during a news conference Wednesday. “Vaccination is the quickest way to reopen Alaska’s economy and communities.”
Elsewhere, good adherence to good respiratory hygiene such as mask-wearing and distancing has had the effect of eviscerating rates of the flu across the state, said state epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin in the news conference. Previous seasons with thousands of cases have been supplanted this year with last than 100.
“That’s been true nationally. There hasn’t been much of a flu season,” McLaughlin said. “All of the strategies we’ve been recommending for covid also works for the flu.”
The quickest way to harden Alaska against summer travelers and growing foreign strains of the coronavirus is to vaccinate everyone possible as expeditiously as possible, Zink said. McLaughlin also cautioned against coming to Alaska with only a first dose, due logistics of the vaccines.
“Do not plan on getting that second dose here in Alaska if you get your first dose in another state,” McLaughlin said.
Dr. Liz Ohlsen, state public health physician, also mentioned the vaccine’s efficacy for pregnant women.
“Many pregnant American women have been vaccinated. We’re up to more than 30,000 people (nationwide) who have chosen to get the vaccine while pregnant and presumably quite a few who chose to get the vaccine while lactating,” Ohlsen said. “We haven’t seen anything coming up that indicates there’s a problem for getting the vaccine while pregnant.”
Getting vaccinated opens a wide range of activities that were previously restricted by mitigation protocols, Zink said.
“We’re just so excited to move COVID into a preventable disease,” Zink said. “Healthy people means healthy economies.”
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.