A syringe with the needle inside a vaccine bottle

Distribution of the Pfizer -BioNTech coronavirus vaccine is ahead of schedule in Nome and now Elders over 80 can register for their first dose.

At this point, Norton Sound Health Corporation (NSHC) CEO Angie Gorn says that all of the hospital’s frontline workers in Nome have received the vaccine, if they wanted it. The corporation was expecting only 300 vaccine doses from the state. However Gorn said NSHC also received over 600 vaccines from the Indian Health Services that has allowed them to begin prioritizing community Elders.

Everything is through informed consent. Nobody is given the vaccine unless the patient, or whoever their healthcare representative is, has given consent for that. So all Norton Sound did was just make sure that our Elders are prioritized.”

– Angie Gorn

Along with frontline medical workers, NSHC also vaccinated the nursing home residents of the Quyanna Care Center. Gorn did not have a percentage for the number of Elders in that facility who decided to take the vaccine.

So far, there have been three reported incidents in Alaska of allergic reactions to the vaccine that required medical attention. Gorn is not aware of any complications related to the vaccine in Nome.

But just in case, the tribal consortium is treating the COVID-19 vaccine differently than the flu vaccine. They’re asking all patients to stay 15 minutes after they get the shot for monitoring. Megan Mackiernan oversees operations at the NSHC and has been working on plans for vaccine distribution.

Anywhere we are giving a vaccine–even if we go into their home and give them a vaccine, we will be bringing a kit with us that contains the medications and the tools we would use if somebody had a severe reaction.”

– Megan Mackiernan

Mackiernan emphasized that allergic reactions to the vaccine are rare…

The vaccine is only available for distribution in Nome right now. NSHC determined the Pfizer vaccine too delicate for village travel. Officials hope that they can distribute the Moderna vaccine out to village clinics as soon as they can receive it. The Food and Drug Administration authorized that vaccine for emergency use today.

Registration for Elders over 80 is available online. Vaccine clinics are ongoing until 6pm tonight and from 9am-6pm on Saturday. Arrangements can be made for homebound individuals.

Image at top: “Syringe and Vaccine” by NIAID is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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