Coronavirus shot slots fill up fast

Jan 13, 2021

Harrison Deveer (right) prepared a dose of the vaccine for Tyler Smith at Nikiski Fire Department Station One on Dec. 17.
Credit Sabine Poux/KDLL

Appointments are filling up fast for local coronavirus vaccine clinics.

There were six slots left as of Wednesday evening for a Jan. 30 clinic at the Niksiki Fire Department. But all other slots at area clinics have been spoken for.

In a video message on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Alerts Facebook page, Emergency Manager Dan Nelson said there’s been high demand for limited spots – a trend providers are seeing around the state.

“Quite frankly, as soon as we’re getting those mass events or even those smaller events out, people are signing up for them quite quickly," he said. "So we’re running into an issue where it’s hard to find open appointments at this time because of our vaccine supply.”

That supply is steadily increasing as more doses of the vaccine roll in. The Kenai Peninsula Borough was approved to receive 2,900 doses of the vaccine this January, including 975 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech that arrived at the hospital Monday.

But providers have to juggle a complicated set of concurrent tasks — getting some people their first dose of the vaccine, getting others their second dose and scheduling clinics for mass distribution.

“I think we’re pushing it out as fast as we can," said Justin Ruffridge, a co-owner of Soldotna Professional Pharmacy who has become a de facto coordinator for the peninsula’s vaccine effort. 

“Honestly, the only thing, if I had a magic wand, wish-list thing, it would be that I wish we would’ve had a solid date back in December, saying, ‘Hey, by the first week of January, be ready to start doing hundreds of shots a week,'" he said. "And that, from my perspective, just didn't happen.”

He said providers were prepared to see a somewhat limited supply of vaccine when rollout first started in December. The amount of vaccine they since received has been higher than Ruffridge initially expected.

Without much time to prepare, providers have been scheduling and vaccinating more or less at the same time.

Currently, those eligible for vaccines are health care workers and Alaskans who are 65 and older. 

Ruffridge said he thinks over half of the seniors who want to be vaccinated have standing first appointments. They’ll also have to get booster shots next month.

“It’s a scheduling kind of nightmare," he said. "In a week, you’re going to have to have not only first dose clinics, starting in February, because there are still going to be a ton of people who need first doses, you’re going to be having to do second dose clinics, as well.”

Soldotna Professional Pharmacy is holding several clinics for eligible recipients this month. They’ll administer 600 doses of the vaccine — all of which have been claimed.

Fred Meyer in Soldotna is also a clinic tomorrow, to vaccinate 50 people. Like many others, this one’s full. They’ll likely add another clinic at the end of the month.

The Nikiski Fire Department clinic, which still has slots available, is doling out 200 doses. Fire Chief Bryan Crisp said the department will likely hold more public clinics when the state releases eligibility to a larger swath of the population.

Meanwhile, many of the peninsula’s most vulnerable have been fully vaccinated.

“You’ll be happy to know that there’s a number of people in all of the assisted living facilities and Heritage Place that have received second doses," Ruffridge said. "And that’s exciting.”

If you’re eligible for the vaccine but have not yet signed up, the borough recommends monitoring the state website — MyHealth.Alaska.Gov.