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Unalaska Awaits Word On When First Batch Of COVID-19 Vaccine Will Reach The Island


After the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Anchorage late Sunday, Unalaska officials said Monday that they're still awaiting word of when the first batches will reach their island community.

"We have not yet heard from the state on when Unalaska can expect to receive our supplies," said Melanee Tiura, chief executive of Iliuliuk Family and Health Services, the island's clinic.

When the vaccine arrives, Tiura said the first doses will go to frontline health care workers, medics and elders at Unalaska's senior center, per state guidelines.

"We probably will have a lot more latitude as the supplies become more available to prioritize within our population," she said. 

With the limited vaccine supply Unalaska is expected to initially receive, Tiura said she doesn't expect any significant changes within the community for the next couple of months.

"I expect things will look pretty similar to how they look now," she said. "At best, we'll have a more protected workforce, which ensures that we all have access to the care that we might need, when we need it."

As the vaccine becomes more available, Tiura said officials will aim for what's called "herd immunity," which health care experts say is only possible after a wide majority of a population has been vaccinated.

In the meantime, she said it's important for Unalaskans to remain diligent as emergency rooms and hospital beds in Anchorage fill up, and, in some cases, hospitals turn away patients and direct them to other facilities.

"When it already takes so many hours to get to a facility, and then to have any kinds of issues with getting admitted, that really can have an impact on somebody's status," Tiura said. "We have to be very mindful of where we are, and more cautious than some other communities need to be in order to keep ourselves safe."

Tiura said Unalaskans should continue to follow local and state health mandates. Those include wearing face masks, sanitizing properly, limiting social circles and social distancing.  

Hope McKenney reported for KUCB from 2019 until 2022. She was KUCB's news director starting in 2021.
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