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Second Shipment Of COVID-19 Vaccine Touches Down In Unalaska

Hope McKenney/KUCB

Unalaska has received its second shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine, and clinic staff have already started giving out shots.

The 300 doses from drug company Moderna touched down Wednesday afternoon on an ACE Cargo flight from Anchorage.

Clinic staff began giving shots Thursday, local health officials said. 

Unalaska's first 100 doses arrived in late December. They went to healthcare workers, EMS and fire personnel, and high risk elders at the island’s senior center. The neighboring communities of Atka and Nikolski got some, too. 

But the first batch wasn't enough to finish Phase 1a of the vaccine rollout in Unalaska, said Melanee Tiura, chief executive at the island's Iliuliuk Family and Health Services clinic. 

"We didn't have adequate doses to fully complete that phase. So we're still working on it," she said. 

Wednesday's shipment of 300 doses is expected to finish Phase 1a and move through at least part of Phase 1b, Tiura said. 

That stage includes industry medics and community members 65 and older. The State of Alaska requires those 65 and older to be Alaska residents

The distribution will not yet extend to all industry workers on local boats and seafood processing facilities, according to Tiura. Only industry employees "who do health care as their job" qualify for the current phase, she said.

"It's not everybody," she said. "It's just a select few from each company."

Next on the list are frontline essential workers 50 and older, and people living or working in congregate settings not previously covered in the earlier tiers, Tiura said. 

After that, distribution broadens beyond essential workers and focuses on age, then both age and risk factors, Tiura added.

"There's a logical sequence to the rollout, and we'll continue to administer all the vaccines that we received," she said.

The Moderna vaccine requires two doses, taken 28 days apart, said Tiura. It's about 94 percent effective after both doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As Unalaskans wait their turn for the COVID-19 vaccine, they should continue to follow local and state health guidance, Tiura said. 

"They should do the same thing they have been diligently doing for the last several months," she said. "Continue to keep circles small, minimize exposure to others, continue to sanitize things properly, use masks when you're in public spaces, eat well, move well — take good care of your immune system."

Tiura said Unalaskans 65 and older who wish to get the COVID-19 vaccine should call the clinic to set up an appointment at 581-1202. 

Hope McKenney is a public radio news director, reporter, producer and host based in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska.
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