Juneau’s first mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic sees over 1,100 people get shots

Kayla Epstein waiting at Centennial Hall after receiving her COVID-19 vaccine.
Kayla Epstein waiting at Centennial Hall after receiving her COVID-19 vaccine.(KTUU)
Published: Jan. 17, 2021 at 5:43 PM AKST
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - Juneau held its first mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic over the weekend and 1,182 people received their first of two shots.

The event was held at Centennial Hall and was by appointment only. There were some extra shots available at the end of the clinic on Sunday.

Kayla Epstein, 72, turned up without an appointment and waited 45 minutes in the parking lot before being told she would receive the last vaccination at the clinic. “I’m so excited,” she said.

Epstein works part-time during the legislative session for Sen. Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, helping to write his newsletter to constituents. She now feels comfortable coming into the Alaska Capitol building.

“I’ve been hunkered down for a long time, and I will no longer be in as much danger, and I’m just very excited about that,” she said.

There have been some advantages to staying home. Epstein said she has had no shortage of projects since the pandemic hit Alaska. “For the first time ever, I’m doing my taxes in January,” she added while laughing.

Robert Barr, the planning chief at the Juneau Emergency Operations Center, said the clinic had been a success. Over 1,100 people received shots since Friday, meaning roughly 30% of people 65 and older who live in Juneau have received their first vaccines.

“Still a ways to go but good progress,” Barr said.

The hope now is to hold more mass vaccination clinics. Barr explained that would depend on how much of the vaccine is allocated to Juneau by the state of Alaska.

If doses trickle in, they would likely be distributed at pharmacies and by other providers. “If, on the other hand, we get 1,000, 2,000 or 3,000 at a time, then these mass vaccination events make a lot of sense,” Barr said.

Capital City Fire/Rescue stood by over the weekend in case someone had a severe reaction to the vaccine. There had been a couple of mild reactions, but nothing major, Barr said.

Public health nurses employed by the state of Alaska helped give out the shots.

April Rezendes, a registered nurse in Juneau, said the clinic had gone really smoothly. Distributing vaccines made a nice change from contact tracing.

“It’s nice to start moving to that sort of prevention instead of just chasing cases like we’ve been doing for so long now,” she said.

There had also been positive feedback from the older Alaskans getting their shots. “Mostly excitement, gratefulness, relief, a lot of relief we’re here,” Rezendes said.

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