Three months after the City and Borough of Juneau first started hosting mass vaccination clinics at Centennial Hall, city officials are preparing to close that shop and pivot to a new strategy.
“Centennial Hall let us get a lot of people done quickly,” said Robert Barr, planning section chief of the city’s emergency operations center, in a phone interview Friday.
“Communitywide, we need to bridge the gap between what we’ve done already and what we need to do,” he said. “At this point, we will continue to do small, sporadic, geographically diverse clinics.”
He said that the city had distributed about 15,000 vaccine doses at Centennial Hall since the first clinic on Jan. 15. Currently, vaccines are available to anyone aged 16 or older who lives or works in Alaska. When the clinics first started, state-based eligibility restrictions limited the clinics primarily to senior citizens and health care workers.
As of Friday, 62% of Juneau’s vaccine eligible population had received at least one vaccine dose. When children under age 16 — who are ineligible for the vaccine — are added to population numbers, about half of Juneau’s total population has had at least one vaccine dose.
People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving all vaccine doses, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Currently, about 44% of Juneau’s eligible population is fully vaccinated. The city’s overall percentage of fully vaccinated people is just shy of 36%, Barr said.
While city vaccination levels are off to an impressive start, Barr said there’s still work to be done to get more people vaccinated—and that need led to the city’s new strategy of pop-up clinics.
Hello, pop-up clinics
The city is offering mini vaccine clinics to any organization willing to host one. All vaccine doses will continue to be free of charge.
“Any organization that has a group that wants to host a clinic at their site, we are happy to do that,” Barr said.
He said that a pop-up vaccine clinic could be sponsored by a business, a club, a church or an association.
According to Barr, the city received an immediate response when the pop-up clinics were announced late last week. He said organizers have already scheduled pop-up clinics at the University of Alaska Southeast campus and small businesses around town.
“The shift is to increase access and opportunity to get people vaccinated,” he added.
People can request a pop-up clinic by completing a form available at juneau.org/mobileclinic.
In a news release on Monday, CBJ officials said that two of the smaller clinics will be available in the next two weeks.
The first is Friday, April 16, at St. Brendan’s Episcopal Church. The church, which is located at 4207 Mendenhall Loop Road, will host a clinic to offer about 80 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Appointments are available between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.
April 22 through 24, Pfizer vaccinations will be available at the Recreation Center at the University of Alaska Southeast, located at 12300 Mendenhall Loop Road. Appointments are available between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. each day. About 70 doses are available, but additional doses can be added if demand warrants it.
To make an appointment, go to juneau.org/vaccine or call 586-6000. According to the release, walk-ins are welcome to the extent vaccine is available.
Goodbye large clinics at Centennial Hall
Because demand for vaccines through city-run clinics is waning, Barr said CBJ will host a final mass vaccination clinic at Centennial Hall on Saturday, April 17. He encourages anyone interested in getting vaccinating at Saturday’s clinic to make plans to do so.
“We won’t turn anyone away,” Barr said. “We will staff up. We will get more supply.”
To make an appointment, visit CBJ’s COVID vaccine information page at juneau.org/vaccine.
He noted that although fewer people are now attending mass vaccination clinics, city officials make sure that vaccine doses are not wasted. “We don’t take it out of the freezer until we need it,” he said.
Barr said that despite the sagging demand for the large-scale clinics, they’ve been very successful.
“It’s gone quite well. We have a really fantastic group of volunteers who have been with us the whole time,” Barr said. He added that volunteers had given shots, managed lines, directed traffic, and helped direct people in special case situations.
“We haven’t had to train many new people at these clinics. It’s been super impressive,” Barr said.
School-based vaccination clinics
Last Friday, Juneau Public Schools hosted onsite vaccine clinics at Thunder Mountain High School and Juneau-Douglas Yadaa.at Kalé High School. Students age 16 and older and staff members were eligible to be vaccinated at the clinic.
“After everyone got through the snowstorm, things went really smoothly,” said Kristin Bartlett, chief of staff at the district, in a phone interview on Friday.
Bartlett said that public health officials and staff from Bartlett Regional Hospital vaccinated 57 people at TMHS and 29 at JDHS.
“Initially, we expected to have a higher number of students attend. But, because city appointments opened up this week, several students went and did it earlier in the week. We were happy to provide this clinic for people who could not go elsewhere,” she said.
She said the school would host another onsite clinic, once the vaccine is approved for younger students.
•Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at email@example.com