Elders, essential workers, and high-risk candidates received the COVID-19 vaccine Thursday, and Dillingham's next clinic will take place in February. There will also be vaccination clinics in communities around the region in the coming weeks.
A long line winds around Dillingham’s high school gym. Thursday’s first group of people to get the vaccine are those 65 and older. After they get the shot, they wait on the high school bleachers as a precaution against any adverse reactions.
Norm Anderson, 68, got one of the first doses of the Moderna vaccine. He said the clinic is “timely and necessary, and that the process was smooth.
“It was wonderful," he said. "The people were nice, everything was ushered right along in good time. Got the shot. People were friendly and nice, clean. And now I’m just in a holding pattern to go home.”
When asked whether he felt relieved, Anderson was hesitant. "Yeah, somewhat, you know. Not everyone’s being as cautious as I think they should be, so this is kind of like an added shield for your own protection,” he said.
Helen Aderman was also among the Elders who showed up for the community's first vaccination clinic.
“I’m in my 60s," she laughed. "Old enough to know better."
She was crocheting as she waited on the bleachers. She said getting the shot was just fine; the wait was just a precaution.
“It was good, you know, being that there’s this COVID stuff going on," she said. "We’ll have to wait and see. But I think it’ll be good, I heard a lot of people, they’ve been good.”
The Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation organized the clinic in three stages: for people 65 and older, for high-risk candidates and essential workers.
This is the first big push to get people vaccinated. They’ll be back in about a month to offer people a second dose.
“It’s going to be between 25 to 35 days — we’re looking at the overall schedule,” said Bernina Venua, part of the health corporation’s COVID-19 response team.
The Moderna vaccine requires a booster shot around four weeks after the first dose. The vaccine is thought to be fully effective around two weeks after that. But if a person misses their booster shot within that window, health experts still recommend they get a second dose when they can.
The health corporation plans to hold smaller versions of the clinic in other communities around the Bristol Bay region.
The Dillingham clinic was a group effort. BBAHC worked with the city, the state public health team, the school district, the Curyung Tribal Council and volunteers.
As the clinic wrapped up, I got in line. KDLG is owned and operated by the school district, so I’m eligible for the shot. After I sat down at a table, public health Nurse Gina Carpenter read me some basic information.
“The biggest thing is this will be recorded with BBAHC’s data, but it also gets submitted to the vaccine statewide immunization registry,” she explained. "We are going to put the time you got your vaccine on your paper so you know when you’re done and when you can go."
It was just fine — the shot didn’t hurt at all, and I didn’t have any adverse reactions apart from a little soreness in the arm.
There will be vaccination clinics in communities around the region in the coming weeks. Those who got the shot in Dillingham should stay tuned for the next clinic in February.
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