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Anchorage airport launches vaccination pilot program

Published: Apr. 28, 2021 at 5:32 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport not only provides essential transportation for travelers, but it now offers COVID-19 vaccines for Alaskans and those working in the state.

The vaccines are offered as part of a pilot program by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. The program goal is to learn how to operate vaccination clinics in airports to reach more people.

“They use airports to get to work, they use airports to access medical care,” said Tari O’Connor, deputy director of the department’s Division of Public Health. “They use airports to access all sorts of things that people need on a day-to-day basis.”

The plans call for vaccination clinics in Alaska’s four largest airports — Anchorage, Juneau, Fairbanks and Ketchikan — to start in May, O’Connor said. The vaccination clinics would only be for Alaskans and those coming here to work, at the moment.

Those seeking vaccinations at the Anchorage airport head to the former Grizzly’s Pizza & Wings in the south terminal, which has been closed since last year because of the pandemic. Individuals can schedule an appointment at the former pizzeria for any of the three COVID-19 vaccines: Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna, according to O’Connor.

People used to visit the former pizzeria for nourishment. Now, they can pick up something that could help protect them from the virus.

During a recent family night outing, Robert Ellis and his family chose to receive the J&J vaccine while observing the eye-catching mountain views from the airport.

“I wanted to do the one shot instead of the multiple,” Ellis said. “Not a big fan of shots in general. One is a little bit easier than two.”

Denise Buchanan and her family were also vaccinated while back in Alaska from the Netherlands.

“It’s like gold in the Netherlands,” Buchanan said, while she waited for her dose. “You just can’t go in and get your COVID test without symptoms.”

Those who administer the vaccine in patients see another benefit to the program.

“I think people have not traveled during the pandemic,” said Jill Green, a registered nurse with Fairweather Medical Services. “To be here, it brings back that energy of ‘hey, if I get vaccinated, feel safer to travel.”

The airport pilot project runs daily from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. until Thursday morning. The vaccine will be available to all Alaska visitors on June 1.

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