Bering Straits Native Corporation made the decision late last week to extend its deadline on mandatory vaccinations. However they will still mandate employees receive vaccinations, but the corporation will lift the previous August 1st deadline amidst questions about accessibility, said Bering Straits Native Corporation Spokeswoman Miriam Aarons:  

“There was definitely concern that the vaccine just wasn’t available in certain areas. We were hearing stories of the vaccine [being] available [but that] doesn’t mean it’s readily available in some states if people can’t get appointments .”

– Miriam Aarons

BSNC is owned by 8,000 Alaska Native shareholders.

In March, the Nome-based corporation announced their decision to require employees of the corporation and its subsidiaries to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. They are one of the first companies in Alaska to publicly make that decision. 

Aarons told KNOM in an earlier interview that the BSNC Board of Directors thinks the best way to fight the COVID-19 pandemic is widespread vaccination. 

“It goes back to our values. As Native people, we care about our communities, we care about our neighbors, we care about our Elders.”

BSNC isn’t in a unique situation. Stanford Law and Medicine Professor Michelle Mello said that companies across the country who are considering vaccine mandates are faced with similar concerns.

“There are a lot of competing considerations, though, that employers are weighing that has led most employers to conclude: not yet, not now. But two that have to be taken really seriously are: is the vaccine truly available and accessible to everybody? And have employers done other things to improve voluntary uptake of vaccinations — like giving employees who feel sick the next day off?”

– Professor Michelle Mello

BSNC Spokeswoman Aarons said the corporation is taking full advantage of the American Recovery Act, which expands sick leave for vaccinations. 

Aaron said no exact timeline exists for when the mandate will go into effect. In the meantime, she hopes voluntary vaccinations continue.

“Hopefully as time goes on, the general public, not just our employees, that are very hesitant to get vaccines will feel more comfortable and safe.”

– Miriam Aarons

Image at top: Logo of Bering Straits Native Corporation. Photo Provided by BSNC.