News-Miner opinion: It’s a good weekend to get vaccinated. And you won’t have to go far to get the Fauci Ouchie, as social media has taken to calling it.
As part of the state’s Sleeves Up for Summer campaign, Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, Fairbanks borough and city officials, and local doctors and nurses are working to bring pop-up vaccination events to Fairbanks starting today. The clinics couldn’t come at a better time. There have been more than 67,870 Covid-19 cases reported in Alaska and more than 341 deaths. Nationwide, there have been more than 32.2 million cases and more than 540,000 deaths.
Yet the reality is the Fairbanks region is second-to-last in vaccination rates across the Alaska, ahead of only the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Only 36.5% of the Fairbanks North Star Borough has gotten the shots, and the borough has the highest virus transmission rate in the state. The vaccination rate across the state for eligible Alaskans is more than 43%.
That’s what these clinics are trying to combat, our region’s low vaccination rate. The goal of Sleeves Up for Summer is to cover 25% more people in May — which means vaccinating 18,000 additional residents in the Interior.
The local campaign starts at 3 p.m. today at Regal Goldstream & IMAX, 1822 Airport Way, which coincides with the national reopening of Regal cinemas. Saturday’s pop-up events are 1-5 p.m. at JP Jones Community Center, 2400 Rickert St., followed by a clinic at the Big Dipper Ice Arena, 1920 Lathrop St., taking place from 6-9 p.m. at the Fairbanks Ice Dogs game. (And fun bonus: City Mayor Jim Matherly will be DJing at Regal Cinemas today, and borough Mayor Bryce Ward will be rousing the crowd at the Big Dipper pop-up clinic.) Upcoming events include pop-ups in North Pole and Healy as well as another Carlson Center clinic. All of these are designed to provide easy access to the vaccine, which in turn helps slow the spread of Covid-19.
Slowing the spread is something the Interior needs to focus on. Fairbanks Memorial Hospital has found itself buried in an avalanche of Covid cases and is reporting record-setting admissions. Worse, its patients are getting younger.
What is a common thread in all that? Last week’s hospital in-patient census showed none of its Covid patients had been fully vaccinated, Memorial’s chief medical officer, Dr. Angelique Ramirez, told the News-Miner, and the hospital has not seen any fully vaccinated people hospitalized with the virus.
Another common thread: Patients are getting younger and are hospitalized longer because most eventually recover. The increasing number of younger adults causes an increase among younger children who live with parents who are exposed. Along with the influx of younger patients comes changing attitudes from patients, who in turn are directing their ire at hospital workers. All that has taken a toll on an already overworked hospital staff in the thick of it. Morale is sinking.
The vaccine is readily available to anyone older than 16 in Alaska. With these clinics today and Saturday, and several more coming up, now is the time to step up, get a poke and know you’re part of the solution.
It simply is a precaution if you want to protect yourself and your loved ones.