(Areca T. Wilson/Public Domain)

Alaska is expected to receive its first supply of coronavirus vaccinations sometime within the next two weeks. That’s according to SEARHC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Elliot Bruhl, who shared an update from the “State Vaccine Preparedness” group at the Sitka Unified Command meeting on Wednesday (12-1-20).

“[We are] anticipating approximately 34,000 doses of vaccine coming to the state of Alaska at some point in the next two weeks,” he said. “That vaccine will be composed of both the vaccine from Pfizer and the vaccine from Moderna, in approximately equal amounts.”  

It’s not yet clear how many doses will be directed to Sitka. Both SEARHC and the city are working on their prioritization plans for who will receive the vaccine first. It’s a little more complicated than getting an annual influenza vaccination. The coronavirus vaccines are licensed for “emergency use,” which means there are strict reporting requirements hospitals must follow as patients are vaccinated, in order to track any potential side-effects. But so far, Bruhl said medical literature indicates most of those side effects will be mild. 

“Common side effects are a sore arm, and low grade temperature and a mild headache,” he said. “We’re excited about the arrival of the vaccine because this obviously is the beginning of the end of the pandemic.”

Even with the vaccine’s arrival in Alaska on the horizon, it will likely take several more months before it’s fully available to the general public. With that in mind, City Administrator John Leach read a letter on behalf of the Unified Command that called for Sitkans to wear masks and continue social distancing throughout the holidays. 

“Unfortunately, this is the year that some traditions need to be paused or modified. We encourage you to celebrate the holidays with only those who live in your household, and limit travel as much as possible. Please be aware of how this virus can spread rapidly in group settings and understand the potential impacts of visiting friends, neighbors and family,” he said.

“Once we are on the other side of this pandemic, we will be thankful for the hard choices we made this year.”

As of Thursday evening (12-3-20), the city had tracked 223 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, with 32 active. More than half of the overall cases were reported in the last month.