‘There’s not enough vaccine’: Alaska’s top doctor explains delays in appointments

Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 6:32 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - There’s a lot of frustration and confusion right now for Alaskans aged 65 and over about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

In a recent media panel on Monday, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink, alongside other health care leaders, explained that those at the state health department know and are working to streamline the process.

There is a map and a list on the state’s website where vaccination locations can be found, however, many of them do not have appointments available. Depending on which location one tries to book with, some can be booked over the phone while others have an online booking option.

There’s a really good chance that those unable to book an appointment will be put on a waitlist. The state’s vaccination FAQ page says that if one is notified that they are on a waitlist, they can seek another appointment elsewhere. If one manages to get a vaccination appointment, they are asked to tell the location where they are waitlisted at that they’ve booked elsewhere.

For those who don’t want to book online, the state has set up a helpline at 907-646-3322. Leave a voicemail, and someone should call within 24 hours to help you book an appointment.

So what’s the hold up? Zink said “the biggest problem is that there’s just not enough vaccine” on Monday. She explained that the state health department has been trying to keep up with the vaccine rollout since it was made available, and Alaska is by no means the only state going through delays.

Part of the delay is due to the system they are using for registration, according to Zink.

“Initially, we were giving vaccines to long term care facilities and hospitals because those were tier 1 and tier 2, and now we’re moving on to this regional, how many people are in this region as you have, and kind of a per capita basis. But the communities are just kind of getting up to speed about that. They’re just finding out about that, just starting to work through that process. And again, this is the transition month in January and the hope is that the February format from then on out communities have a better sense of what’s happening,” she said.

It’s also because they bumped up the senior population that is eligible now.

“We also made that decision to go ahead and roll vaccine out to the seniors 65 and older knowing that there would not be enough spots for all of them at once. Because we didn’t want to wait any longer. We felt like there was vaccine and spots available and every day that we can get this out, our goal is to get shots in arms as fast as possible,” Zink said.

There are also a lot more places to get vaccinated. With all the new locations, Zink said vaccines had more places to go.

“We have more providers than we have vaccine at this time. So they don’t know how much they’re getting because we don’t have more vaccine to send to them,” she said.

She also mentioned that the transportation of the vaccines in a state as vast as Alaska is another reason for delay.

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