Health Report: Fairbanks seniors feel relief as vaccination rates climb in Alaska

Published: Feb. 19, 2021 at 4:03 PM AKST|Updated: Feb. 23, 2021 at 2:36 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Senior citizens are feeling a sense of relief as vaccination rates in Alaska rises to 58% for those 65 and older.

According to the Associated Press, Alaska public health officials said 58% of residents 65 and older have received a COVID-19 vaccination since distribution efforts began.

The success of the Fairbanks vaccination efforts can attributed to a few sources. Elizabeth Burton, Regional Nurse Manager for Public Health Nursing explained, “Thanks to so many community volunteers and community organizations pulling together, we’ve been able to host some very large scale POD (Point of Dispensing) events at the Carlson Center, and provided thousands of vaccines to our Fairbanks seniors. We also have the smaller providers in the community that are also seeing seniors and other eligible individuals in their private offices - and together we have made a significant impact in Fairbanks.”

Fairbanks Public Health has another mass vaccination event at the Carlson Center happening on February 25, and two more in March on the 5th and 25th. Those looking to volunteer to help with these events can find more information at the Fairbanks Area Citizen Corp website.

“We continue to commit ourselves everyday to making the vaccine available in Fairbanks and getting it out into the community as quickly as we receive it. We want to see all the tiers that are eligible continue to have opportunities for vaccination, and we want to see the rates for all age groups rise just like they have for the senior population,” commented Burton.

Another big part of the success of the Alaska vaccinations is the efforts of the Tanana Chiefs Conference.

Leah Thompson, Deputy Director of Clinical Services for Tanana Chiefs Conference explained, “It was a real priority for us to get vaccines out to the people. So what we did in the beginning when we got our first doses of vaccine, of course it was age limited. And so, that first kind of tier that came out was age 75 and older and frontline workers and things like that. So what we did with our patients that are age 75 and older is we actually called them all personally. We made contact with them personally, to let them know we had the vaccine, and to let them know how to make an appointment. So that effort, we did that for about two weeks and felt that we were pretty successful in reaching the people that wanted the vaccine.”

TCC has also successfully vaccinated several Alaskan Native Villages.

“We mailed out to all of our Fairbanks-based patients. We’ve had a real concerted village-based effort. So our Community Health Aid program has been taking teams out to all of our villages. And of course they’re notified in advance because we need to let them know that we’re going to be out there. So that’s just been really successful, the community knows we’re coming, the villages are really really interested in getting the vaccine. And so that uptick in the villages has been really successful and we are almost done with our village effort. I think all of the villages that we serve have had their first vaccines, and we’re just finishing up with the second vaccines,” commented Thompson.

As more and more people begin getting the second dose of vaccine, many are experiencing a sense of relief. Darlene Supplee, Executive Director for the Fairbanks Senior Center told us, “After receiving the vaccine, a lot of them have expressed a feeling of kind of a release of joy that they can continue, especially now that we’re starting the second round of shots for individuals as were moving past that 27-30 day mark. They are feeling a sense of relief and joy that they can start returning to the components of their jobs, socially interfacing, etc. - which has been a barrier since March.”

Seniors are now beginning to be able to socialize and cease being confined to their homes.

“I think one of the successes is that seniors can start interfacing and returning to being social and not homebound. I think that that’s probably one of the biggest positive components out of bringing clinics and partnering with local pharmacies to vaccinate seniors 65 and older. I think the other positive thing is, as we continue to move forward with vaccinations, are the homebound individuals that do require a little more assistance, where we can start returning individuals into their home to continue to help them live independently,” commented Supplee.

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