400 COVID-19 vaccination appointments unfilled for this week’s clinic in Juneau

Cash prizes are being offered for Juneau residents to get their first shots
COVID-19 vaccine sticker.
COVID-19 vaccine sticker.(KTUU)
Published: Apr. 5, 2021 at 2:27 PM AKDT
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - Juneau is hosting a COVID-19 vaccination clinic through Thursday at Centennial Hall, and roughly 400 appointments remain unfilled.

To encourage more people to get vaccinated in April, the Juneau Emergency Medical Associates, Inc. are offering daily cash prizes up to $500 for people getting their first shot.

Juneau’s vaccination rates continue to be high compared to the rest of the state. Robert Barr, the planning section chief at the emergency operations center, said around 60% of the city’s eligible population has received at least one shot. That compares to around 42.1% of Alaskans who are eligible to be vaccinated who have gotten their first dose.

Alaska became the first state to expand vaccine eligibility to everyone who is 16 or older on March 8.

Just over 1,600 shots were allocated for Juneau’s current vaccination clinic, meaning one quarter of appointments remain unfilled. Barr said it’s unclear to what degree those vacancies represent vaccine hesitancy or whether some Juneau residents are simply unaware that they can get vaccinated.

Juneau officials are asking residents to register online for an appointment for the current mass vaccination clinic.

“We think we may end up with the capacity to care for some limited number of walk-ins, but we’re making that decision day-by-day,” Barr said by email. “If we are able to accept a walk-in, it takes an extra 10 minutes per appointment.”

Any shots that are left over after the clinic will be used at future clinics or donated to local pharmacies or private providers in Juneau, Barr added.

Because no COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for children younger than 16, Barr said around 20% to 25% of Juneau’s population currently cannot get vaccinated. CNN reports that trials are underway to see if any COVID-19 vaccine is safe for kids.

It’s unknown what percentage of the national population needs to be vaccinated for COVID-19 to achieve herd immunity. Barr said the same goes for the Juneau population. The World Health Organization reports that percentage varies by disease.

At the Centennial Hall clinic on Monday, a steady stream of people walked in to get their shots before waiting 15 minutes to see if they developed any side effects that required medical attention.

Nicole Wery, who works for the Alaska Division of Health Care Services, sat and waited after getting her first shot. She has older family members and a sister who works for the school district, and said being vaccinated will make her feel more comfortable for them all to be together again.

“It will allow us to do more traveling,” Wery said. “I have a sister who lives down in Seattle and we like to go down there and visit her for part of the summer, and it will allow us to do more traveling to visit her.”

Juneau is also hosting another clinic at Centennial Hall on April 17. As of April 2, there were 560 shots available for that clinic.

Barr said there have not been conversations with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services about whether Juneau’s vaccine allotment would shrink if appointments remain unfilled.

Watching the increase of vaccine supply, Barr didn’t foresee a shortage. “I don’t think we’re going to be in a situation where we’re wanting for vaccine,” he said.

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