ANMC staff receive first COVID-19 vaccinations in Alaska

January 28, 2021

History in the making. A step toward normalcy. An amazing feat of science and technology. These are just some of the ways people have described how they feel about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Twelve months into the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, Alaska received its first shipments of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday, Dec. 13, and deliveries were made safely to three Anchorage health care facilities the next day. Alaska Native Medical Center was the first Alaska facility to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

On Tuesday, Dec. 15, the first person at the Alaska Native Medical Center to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was Dr. David Dexter, a longtime hospital medicine physician at ANMC. Emily Schubert, ANTHC Employee Health nurse, administered the first dose.

 “It’s been a long time coming and I’m encouraged that we’ve got a vaccine to get this pandemic under control,” said Dexter.” 

Additional deliveries of vaccine were also scheduled for communities throughout Alaska that same day, and throughout that week, distribution of the vaccine to rural Alaskan communities took place.

Initial vaccine supply was limited and the first doses of vaccine were offered to hospital-based frontline health care workers at the highest risk of COVID-19 infection, long-term care facility residents and staff, EMS and fire personnel providing medical services, Community Health Aides/Practitioners and individuals who are required to perform vaccinations. Eventually, all Alaskans who wish to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will have an opportunity to receive a vaccine.

ANMC hospital medicine physician, Dr. Linnea Smith, was among the first 10 health care providers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. She cares for patients who are hospitalized at ANMC, including many COVID-19 patients.

“As I was trying to decide whether or not to be one of the first people to get this vaccine, I thought about the fact that it is remotely possible there are some risks that we’re not aware of to this vaccine, but we very well know what the various serious risks are from COVID-19,” said Smith. “Every day, I’m taking care of patients who are dying from COVID-19. We know what COVID-19 is capable of, and so in my thinking, I decided I would much rather take a small possible risk in order to avoid contracting this very serious disease.”

In the weeks since the initial doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Alaska, both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines have been made readily available for Tribal health facilities throughout Alaska.  The Tribal health system is a key contributor to Alaska having the highest rate of people vaccinated for COVID-19 in the United States as of the end of January.

Even though more and more Alaskans are receiving the COVID-19 vaccine every day, it is still important to take proper public health precautions to protect our communities from contracting COVID-19— we must remain vigilant and continue to practice physical distance, hand hygiene and masking up.

If you are a Tribal health beneficiary age 16 years or older and receive your primary care at Southcentral Foundation, and would like to make an appointment to receive your COVID-19 vaccine, call (907) 729-3300. All members of your household are also eligible for the vaccine. If you live outside Anchorage, please call your local Tribal health provider to see if you are eligible to schedule an appointment

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