Although a vaccine for the coronavirus could be ready sometime in December, it could be several months before it’s available to the general public in Sitka and surrounding communities.

 The Sitka Unified Command met last week (11-25-20) to continue discussing preparations for a vaccine rollout. Sitka, like many other communities across the country, will prioritize distributing the vaccine to healthcare workers.

Distribution in Southeast presents significant challenges. Public Health Nurse Denise Ewing said getting the vaccine to remote communities would take a multi-pronged approach, and in some cases, a nurse and a float plane. 

“If there’s a community that they can get access through SEARHC, then they’re going to get their access through SEARHC,” she said. “Some of our places that I’m the Public Health Nurse for, like [Port] Armstrong–I will probably be flying into Armstrong or Baker, some of smaller ones like that that don’t have access with SEARHC,” she continued. “It’s a joined effort in making sure that we have a good plan and get to all the communities.” 

EMS Captain Rob Janik is working on the local vaccine delivery plan. He said the first phase of the vaccine rollout will be distributed to frontline health care and public safety workers. High risk populations come next. Then the general public, which Janik said could roll out by next March or April.

“We’re looking at end of the first quarter–beginning of the second quarter of 2021 for widespread ability and distribution to the entire population,” he said.

The group also discussed plans to introduce a “COVID-Conscious” business program — a city directory that will show which businesses are taking virus prevention measures, like requiring masks. This comes shortly after the assembly voted down a resolution that would have required bars and restaurants to limit capacity and require masks.