The Fairbanks North Star Borough ranks second to last in vaccination rates across the state, according to a Wednesday report from the Department of Health and Social Services.
While almost 33% of adults in Alaska have been fully vaccinated, the rate in the Fairbanks area is 25.6%. The Matanuska-Susitna Region has the lowest rate vaccination rate in the state, 20%. Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage are right above Fairbanks, while the Northern Southeast Region is at about 56% and is the most vaccinated in Alaska.
Fairbanks has distributed about 25,000 vaccines, and 18,000 recipients have received both doses, said Clint Brooks, incident commander for the Unified Incident Command for Interior Alaska.
“We've been actively trying to distribute vaccines we've been allocated,” Brooks said, adding that until Tuesday, local health officials would fill their clinics. “Luckily, so far we didn't have to waste any vaccines. If we have no-shows, we have a waitlist of people we call.”
On Tuesday, health officials opened the Carlson Center for walk-in vaccinations. Almost 1,200 people got vaccinated, including more than a hundred who did not have appointments. Happy with the turnout, officials decided to expand the model.
“All of our future clinics at the Carlson Center will have a walk-in option,” Brooks said.
To make it even easier for people in the Interior to get the vaccine, Fairbanks officials are considering drive-thru and pop-up clinics.
“We’ve been talking about drive-thru clinics, but Mother Nature has not been nice to us,” Brooks said. “As soon as the weather allows, we will have that.”
Pop-up clinics across the Interior would increase access as well, especially if more single-dose vaccines from Johnson & Johnson are available.
“If you live in Salcha, North Pole, Fox or Ester, it’s more remote,” he said. “We want to bring the vaccines closer to where people live so they don't have to drive to the Carlson Center.”
Fairbanks has more than 1,200 vaccine appointments available online. To register, go to covidvax.alaska.gov or call 907-646-3322.
New variant detected in Alaska
A new more transmissible coronavirus variant has been detected in Alaska, according to the Alaska COVID Genomic Surveillance report released Tuesday.
The South African variant B.1.351 was found in Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. A person who contracted the variant on March 20 hasn’t recently travelled, but officials are still investigating details of the case, said Louisa Castrodale, an epidemiologist with Alaska's Division of Public Health.
This variant is concerning because it spreads 50% easier than the original Covid-19 virus. It may also be more resistant to some vaccines, though the efficacy of the Pfizer and Moderna is “pretty darn robust” against this variant, state epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin said.
Other concerning variants present in Alaska include seven cases of the U.K. variant B.1.1.7, six cases of the Brazilian variant P.1, and 61 cases of one of the California variants, B.1.429. Lab manager Jayme Parker reminded the public that while the vaccine efficacy is lower for some of the variants, “it's not a zero game.”
Meanwhile, the Covid-19 cases have been trending up, particularly in urban areas.
Contact staff writer Alena Naiden at 459-7587. Follow her at twitter.com/FDNMlocal.