‘We’ve been completely slammed’: Private clinic vaccine distributor says of rollout

The last three vials of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Peak Neurology and Sleep Medicine in...
The last three vials of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Peak Neurology and Sleep Medicine in Anchorage on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021.(Taylor Clark)
Published: Jan. 18, 2021 at 7:54 AM AKST|Updated: Jan. 16, 2021 at 7:54 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaskans over the age of 65 are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, but some have had a hard time getting an appointment.

In the meantime, the state has partnered with other pharmacies and doctor’s offices to help with the state-wide rollout. According to some of the workers in one of the private clinics, they are overwhelmed.

Peak Neurology and Sleep Medicine is a small office where managers say they do not normally do vaccinations. Still, medical director for their department of sleep medicine, Dr. Ross Dodge says they were happy to do what they could to assist with the rollout. There operation is small, and Dodge said he’s hoping more health care providers will help share the weight.

“A couple hundred vaccinations per week, which is part of the effort, and I am so proud of what we’re doing,” Dodge said. “But what we need to see as a community is people being vaccinated on a scale of thousands per week. You know, I think a great example of this is what the Anchorage School District has done for the 65 and older population.”

Dodge said it’s gotten more manageable, but at the beginning of their part of the rollout, it was hectic at the office. He said they had somewhere around 700 calls within the first few hours of the office being listed as a place to get the vaccine. Workers at the clinic said they had a waitlist of 950 people as of Friday.

Earlier this week, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink announced that the biggest problem was that there isn’t enough vaccine in the state for the level of vaccinations they’re trying to do. On Friday, Peak Neurology had just three lonely vials in storage.

Still, the state and staff at Peak Neurology said that appointments are becoming available regularly.

Dodge added that part of the hurdles vaccine administrators face come from more than just the scale of the rollout, but how it’s done. He said each doctor’s office has different systems for booking appointments.

Additionally, not everyone has a primary care doctor, therefore he said there’s a lot of people who aren’t accounted for in the health care system who are eligible for the vaccine. It leads to confusion, according to Dodge.

“If you don’t have a regular primary care, if you’re not routinely engaged with the health care system, the biggest question –– I think — for patients was ‘where do I start? Does my insurance cover this?’”

He said that part gets more complicated because the COVID-19 vaccine is taken in two doses weeks apart from each other.

While they continue to give what vaccines they can along with their regular jobs, Dodge said he’s really hoping more providers step up to help get the rollout going.

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