Weather permitting, Juneau’s COVID-19 vaccine will be here Tuesday

COVID-19 vaccine arrives in Alaska. (Photo from Alaska Department of Health and Social Services)

Juneau is expected to get its first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, weather permitting.

A UPS plane delivered Alaska’s first vaccine shipment Sunday in Anchorage.

Local officials say that Bartlett Regional Hospital will be the distribution hub for Juneau’s first 975 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine. Hospital staff will be among the first to receive it.

State officials decided who to prioritize as vaccines roll out, in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The first group includes frontline health care workers, first responders and long-term care facility residents.

Ruth Johnson is the administrator for the nursing home Wildflower Court. She has about 120 employees and 55 residents who are eligible for vaccination.

“It means they’re going to be vaccinated very soon,” she said. “And there’s been a ton of logistics and works going on behind the scene.”

Logistics like where the vaccines will actually be given, and getting written permission to vaccinate. She says she’s heard some concern about the speed with which the vaccine was approved for use and some philosophical opposition. But Johnson feels confident more than 90% of her residents will get vaccinated, and thinks Wildflower Court staff may hit that benchmark, too.

A family testing out a new way to have contact at Wildflower Court. (Photo courtesy of Wildflower Court)

She says it’s not clear yet if widespread vaccination at the facility will allow her to relax rules that have largely limited residents’ interactions to virtual visits and window visits.

“I don’t know when we’ll be able to unlock the doors. And believe me, we’re all looking forward to it,” she said. “These residents have not had access to their families since March. It’s been a very long time.”

She says she’s awaiting guidance from federal regulators with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

To be effective, a second dose of Pfizer’s vaccine is required three weeks after the first. Juneau officials expect shipments of additional doses every week or two.

The next vaccination phase covers many more people, including essential workers, workers that interact with the public a lot, people age 65 and up, and people with other health risk factors.

State officials say they are “working to ensure” the vaccines are free to individuals.

The National Weather Service’s lead meteorologist in Juneau, Wes Adkins, says Tuesday’s weather looks benign, though there may be a chance for some wind shear and fog that could affect flights.

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