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FEMA nurses help out at Dillingham vaccine clinic

Izzy Ross
A Dillingham Public Health staff member administers a vaccine at the clinic in October 2021.

The clinic was an opportunity for people to protect themselves against COVID and the flu. A couple nurses from the Lower 48 were there to help.

Dillingham Public Health and the Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation hosted a vaccine clinic Wednesday, where people had the option to get vaccines for COVID-19 and the flu.

Two nurses with the Federal Emergency Management Agency helped administer shots. Currently stationed at BBAHC, they're part of the state's push to provide additional support to health care facilities amid the ongoing surge of COVID cases.

Credit Izzy Ross/KDLG
Nurse Renae Rodriquez. Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021.

When I entered Dillingham City Hall's council chambers, FEMA Nurse Renae Rodriquez tucked two white cloth masks into my pocket. They’re spangled with the star pattern of the Alaska state flag.

“I’ll give you two — one for you, and one for a Christmas present," she said.

Rodriquez is from the Fort Hood area of Texas. She said she's been on the road for several years, and those rotations have been intensified by the pandemic.

In September, the state signed an $87 million contract to bring in more than 400 health care workers. Like Rodriquez, they have traveled to Alaska from the Lower 48 to relieve overburdened facilities.

Rodriquez has been in Dillingham for more than a week, and she said it’s been a good experience.

Credit Izzy Ross/KDLG
Nurse Sharon Joseph. Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021.

“I love it here," she said. "So far, I love what I see. The simplicity of life and the friendliness. Everyone’s been so welcoming, and so friendly.”

Rodriquez said she’s surprised by how many people showed up to get vaccinated.

“Because it’s a smaller community, I didn’t expect such a large turnout," she said. "So it’s been a very good turnout.”

The other FEMA nurse, Sharon Joseph, had been in Dillingham for just under two weeks. She's from Orlando, Florida.

“I’m actually helping out today," she said. "I work at the hospital. And I’ll be going out in the remote villages also to work.”

Credit Courtesy of Teresay Seybert
Left to right: BBAHC Nurse Scharell Anderson, Public Health Office Assistant Teresa Seybert, UAF Bristol Bay Campus nursing student Kimberly Seybert. Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021.

Dillingham public health nurse Gina Carpenter said the clinic offered two vaccines because flu season is just around the corner.

“We never know what flu is going to do and how many people might become really sick, so we just want to make sure that in this season of year number two for the pandemic that we’re also getting flu shots, and we’re offering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as well,” she said.

In all, around 120 people received vaccines on Wednesday. Fourteen people got the COVID vaccine — most got their first shot, while a few got their second dose, and a few immunocompromised people got their third shot of the Pfizer vaccine. Health care workers administered 117 doses of flu vaccine.

Contact izzy@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.

Izzy Ross is the news director at KDLG, the NPR member station in Dillingham. She reports, edits, and hosts stories from around the Bristol Bay region, and collaborates with other radio stations across the state.