More than ten percent of Sitkans have received the initial coronavirus vaccine shot. As of Monday (1-4-21) morning, SEARHC had vaccinated 2760 people, according to spokesperson Maegan Bosak. 905 of them were in Sitka. That count doesn’t include around 100 first responders who received their first doses at the Sitka Fire Hall in mid-December. 

When the Sitka Unified Command met last week (12-30-20), Public Health Nurse Denise Ewing said that the state’s next allotment of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine was larger than she’d anticipated. That meant they’d begin “Phase 2” of the vaccine rollout by early February. 

“That would look like congregate living facilities, working facilities that are congregate and those at risk, and those that cannot be reached through other means,” she said.

SEARHC began offering the vaccination to a small segment of the public in the last week of December. At the time, the state was still shaping its recommendations for who qualifies for the vaccine during “phase 1b”, and most providers still weren’t distributing the vaccine to the public.

Early on, there was some confusion about who qualified for the vaccine at SEARHC’s first clinic in Harrigan Centennial Hall on Tuesday, December 29. In an initial press release, SEARHC said the vaccine would be available to patients 65 and older and essential health care workers. That later shifted to 75 and up, and then another release was issued– it didn’t specify age or or other qualifying information- it simply encouraged Sitkans to sign up via the online portal and wait for a phone call from a SEARHC representative. 

On Thursday, December 31, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services released its final recommendations for phase 1b: Essential workers and those 65 and older will be included in this wave of vaccine distribution, beginning on January 11. The state is breaking from federal guidelines recommending 1b be reserved for elders 75 and older and essential workers.

Read the state’s 1b guidelines outlining who qualifies for the current vaccine rollout phase

At the EOC meeting, Fire Chief Craig Warren asked for patience from the public.

“There aren’t clear defined lines all the way through all the tiers who gets the vaccine and when, and what your order is. I’ve probably had 10 to 12 phone calls today at the fire house just wondering what my thoughts are,” he said, and added that local and state health officials would be making those calls. “I’m asking for patience from the public. We’re doing the best we can, and we’re not wasting a dose, that’s the good news. We’re getting out as fast as it comes to town.”

“Be patient, it’s coming,” he said.

Sitkans can sign up for the vaccine here, and a representative will call to schedule an appointment based on eligibility and as vaccines become available.