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Vaccine Clinic now Bigger, Faster

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Robyne
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KUAC

Fairbanks held its largest mass vaccination clinic so far at the Carlson Center arena yesterday. 1,900 people were scheduled for COVID-19 vaccinations over 10 hours. The Interior Alaska Unified Command has learned a lot about cycling hundreds of people, who must stay far apart from each other, through the Point of Dispensing clinic since the first one January 15.

The clinic takes full advantage of the space in the John A. Carlson Community Activity Center, with greeters directing patients to sanitize their hands, then walk down a wide aisle to register at a pair of desks, before being directed to a vaccination table. Monitoring some of the activity is Dr. Mark Simon from the Emergency Department at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. He says it is quite a bit different from the first clinics, which were not as smooth.

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Credit Robyne / KUAC
/
KUAC
Hundreds of cars jammed the front parking lot of the Carlson Center at previous clinics so patient parking was moved to the back.

“We have about 1,900 Interior residents coming through for their first dose. If they were here with friends or family in the past, they would’ve entered in the front, but now we’re having people enter in the back because there’s more parking there, because our numbers have increased. And otherwise the flow is pretty similar -  people are coming in, they get registered, they get vaccinated, then have a period of 15 to 30 minutes observation, and then they get to go.”

During that observation period, patients sit in chairs, spaced-apart across the arena floor. There are signs reminding people to use their smartphones to sign up for their second dose appointments. And if that’s not enough, there are volunteers like Jeannette Gorda, a Public Health Nurse, walking around asking people if they need help.

“So, we need a lot of people to be greeters and direct traffic, they are wearing the green aprons, there we have a whole team wearing white aprons that are the admin, administration team checking people in, recording the vaccinations, checking people out. And then we have our vaccination team wearing the blue aprons and obviously, they are vaccinating people. Then there are all kinds of people in the background planning and logistics and folks making sure that we have what we need to keep running.”

The first mass vaccination clinics, called POD for Points of Dispensing, were a little clunky, with some patients having difficulty signing up for appointments, which created a little chaos here and there. But Shelly Foint-Anderson, the Nurse Manager for the Fairbanks Public Health Center, says it is all smoother and faster now.

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Credit Robyne / KUAC
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KUAC
Eva Orr, 1st grade teacher at University Park School, celebrates getting the vaccine as "Thing 1." She says "Thing 2" is covering her classroom while she is at the vaccination clinic.

“We have actually gone to paperless system, where everything is done through the computer. We have a wonderful command team that has worked diligently to get the flow of the clinics so it runs at ease. I think we’ve done a lot of practicing and tweaking, and have worked out the bugs.” 

The Interior Alaska Unified Command runs the mass clinics. It is the partnership set up at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic among the Fairbanks North Star Borough, Foundation Health Partners and Tanana Chiefs Conference, and other agencies, but the biggest player at this free event is Alaska’s Public Health Division.

“This is the largest vaccine point of dispensing that we’ve done so far, with we have 16 vaccinators and a host of other volunteers. It’s usually between 60 and 70 volunteers at an event.”

With more vaccine on the way, and more people becoming eligible to get a shot, the Unified Command wants to go bigger and faster to serve thousands more people in Interior Alaska. Gorda says they could use more volunteers.

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“So, if someone wants to volunteer for our COVID vaccine points of dispensing, they can go to the Fairbanks area citizens core website. Which is: fairbanksacc.org and you’ll see vaccine clinic volunteers needed, with links to the different dates where we are having our Points of Dispensing at the Carlson Center.”

There is a clinic at the Carlson Center today (Friday) as well. Appointments for the next mass vaccination clinic were just opened yesterday. Public Health plans to open new appointments every Thursday.