Ruby vaccines

Traditional Chief William McCarty of Ruby receives his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, March 15, 2021, from Anne Lilley.

There is still an opportunity for Denali Borough residents to sign up for a COVID vaccination in Healy on Friday, March 12. The state announced Tuesday that the vaccine is now available to anyone over the age of 16.

Note that the Healy clinic will administer the Moderna vaccine and recipients of that vaccine must be at least 18 years old.

As of Tuesday, there were 174 slots available, out of the 440 doses allotted to the vaccination clinic.

“We knew 440 was a high bar in terms of registration,” said Denali Borough Mayor Clay Walker, due to the area’s population size. As of Tuesday, 266 people made appointments to receive the vaccine. 

The mayor encouraged local residents to sign up for the vaccine, especially those involved in the tourism industry. That includes employees at Denali National Park and seasonal operators.

“With full protection provided two weeks after the second dose, which would be April 23, seasonal staff who work with the public will want to consider being protected at the start of the season,” the mayor said.

The follow-up clinic is set for April 9. Those who receive the first dose on March 12 will make an appointment that day to receive the second dose on April 9. These are the only two vaccination clinics currently committed to being held in the Denali Borough. The borough is hosting the vaccine clinic, in partnership with the division of public health, Interior Community Health Center and others.

“We know that meeting the needs of public health is really the first step toward economic recovery,” the mayor said.

The borough is receiving many queries about COVID testing and vaccines for businesses and the visitor industry and is in the process of coordinating efforts with the Denali Chamber of Commerce, the mayor said. 

“The borough continues to explore arrangements for future provision of vaccine in the area, but we are not a registered provider of the vaccine,” Walker said. “We will be looking to health care providers to offer these services and are pursuing opportunities for funding support.”

CARES funding that the borough received last year is just about depleted. To fund future COVID programs, like free COVID testing, the borough plans to apply for a new Department of Health and Social Services program, that utilizes federal funding to support local testing and vaccination efforts, through memorandum of agreements. 

The vaccine clinic at the Denali Borough will be held at the Tri-Valley Community Center 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. To make an appointment, go to covidvax.alaska.gov. Click on “Find A Covid Vaccine Provider.” Scroll down the page until you see “Tri-Valley Community Center.” Select “Tri-Valley Community Center” and complete the online registration.

Many volunteers from throughout the borough will be on hand to assist, helping with everything from parking to screening, welcoming, registration, and vaccine administration. Everyone who receives a vaccination must remain in the room for about 15 minutes after the shot to monitor for adverse reactions. Emergency medical personnel will be on site.

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at kcapps@newsminer.com. Follow her on Twitter @FDNMKris.