Inside the Gates: Alaska VA starts vaccinations with employees first in line

Alaska VA Healthcare system receives 900 doses of Moderna vaccine in first initial shipments
Published: Dec. 30, 2020 at 8:13 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska VA Healthcare System received its first doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 23. A total of 600 doses arrived and on Tuesday, the VA started vaccinating employees.

“I thought it was something that in my job, working with patients on a regular basis that would be good to do,” Dentist John East said. “Get protected and I’m grateful to have it available.”

The VA will set out to vaccinate all employees who want it. The number of employees is around 700 according to VA spokesperson Samuel Hudson.

“Well, because they are the front line,” Hudson said. “They are the ones taking care of the veterans. So we want to make sure they are healthy, they are taking care of the veterans like talking or taking care of somebody who may be positive with COVID-19, or suspect, then, they are already taken care of and they are the front line fighters of it.”

On Tuesday, the VA received another 300 doses of the vaccine.

“That was unexpected,” Hudson said. “We were not expecting that so when we are done vaccinating whichever employees want it, we can then start to vaccinate our veterans. It would be those 75 years old and above also those living in care facilities.”

The VA started with 10 employees on Tuesday and another handful on Wednesday. The health care system will continue to schedule employees in Anchorage and the Mat-Su this week and then start with the community out based locations in Fairbanks, Juneau, Kenai and Homer next week.

“Our plan is to start vaccinating veterans next week,” chief of staff for the Alaska VA Healthcare System Dr. Cynthia Joe said. “We got an additional 300 doses for veterans that came yesterday. We’ll start vaccinating for our higher-risk veterans next week. We’ll continue to vaccinate our employees next week, our plan is to vaccinate all of our employees who request the vaccine and have that done by January 15.”

All vaccinations are done by appointment only and are not like your typical flu shot.

“Patients will have forms they need to fill out,” Hudson said. “Then once they get the vaccine, we will monitor them for 15 to 30 minutes to make sure there are no adverse effects. If there are, we have trained staff on-site to help. So, it takes some time, we have four rooms set up and we hope to get up to six here very soon.”

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