Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink receives and administers doses of COVID-19 vaccine

Published: Dec. 19, 2020 at 12:27 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - With the COVID-19 vaccine arriving in Alaska earlier this week, frontline health care workers across the state have begun receiving the first of their two doses of the guard against coronavirus.

On Friday, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink rolled up her own sleeve to get the shot at Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, calling the availability of vaccinations “a big deal.”

“I am full of mixed emotions,” she said, shortly after getting the shot. “I am sad that we’re losing a person a minute in the United States to COVID, that we’ve lost 183 people in this state, and that we don’t have enough vaccine for everyone yet.”

However, she said, she recognizes the opportunity in the vaccine being made available, if mostly only to health care workers thus far.

“More than anything, I just feel really hopeful,” she said. “This is the beginning of a new chapter in this state, the country and the world.”

For Zink, it seems that work never stops: on Friday, which also happened to be her birthday, she was asked to administer the vaccine, too. For Kim Jensen, whom Zink referred to as a longtime friend, she obliged and administered the first dose.

“There have been times that have been rough lately,” said Jensen, the emergency room lead unit secretary at Mat-Su Regional Medical Center. “I lost someone to COVID, here in this ICU. And I just said, ‘Hey, if you’re around, will you give me the shot?’ It felt like some sort of closure or something.”

Zink, who has long maintained that the decision to get vaccinated is a personal one, also responded on Friday to reports of several adverse reactions at Alaska hospitals.

“We see allergic reactions to all sorts of things,” she said. “Every time someone gets a UTI or pneumonia and needs antibiotics, there’s a risk of an allergic reaction, or anytime they get any sort of injection. This is bread and butter — emergency medicine — treating it and responding.

“There’s risk to everything we do, but these reactions are a manageable risk,” she added, “versus COVID, which is an unknown.”

As with other recipients of the coronavirus vaccine, Zink will have to return for a second dose between 17 and 21 days from her first. Health care workers are first in line for the vaccine, with the most at-risk individuals — such as those at long-term care facilities — the main priority after that. A larger-scale rollout for general public is expected to begin sometime in 2021.

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