Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. is latest big health care provider to require COVID-19 vaccine

A shipment of COVID-19 Pfizer vaccinations lands in Bethel, Alaska and is transferred to a deep freezer at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation on December 16, 2020. (Katie Basile/KYUK)

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation is requiring its employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, it announced in a statement this week.

YKHC said the policy started last Thursday due to the surge in COVID-19 cases from the delta variant and the state’s limited critical care infrastructure.

Unvaccinated employees have 30 days to receive their first dose of the vaccine, and they must undergo twice-weekly testing until fully vaccinated. Employees are able to apply for exemptions to the shots, according to YKHC. Exempted employees will be required to continue twice-weekly testing, along with additional mitigation measures.

YKHC Director of Communications Tiffany Zulkosky wrote in an email that employees without sufficient paid leave can receive additional time off for each shot to recover from any side effects.

The health corporation employs more than 1,400 workers and says that “an overwhelming majority” are already vaccinated.

Many other Alaska health care organizations are also requiring their employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, including Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, Providence Health & Services Alaska, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Norton Sound Health Corporation, Southcentral Foundation and PeaceHealth Ketchikan Hospital.

Some communities are also putting mitigation measures back into place as the highly-contagious delta variant spreads. In Bethel, the city council voted Tuesday to implement a universal mask mandate in public, indoor settings.

KYUK - Bethel

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