Hundreds of Anchorage seniors pour in for COVID vaccinations at school district vaccination clinic

a person receives a vaccination
Anchorage School District registered nurse Jennifer Perkins (right) administers the Moderna Covid-19 vaccination to retired chemistry teacher David Boyd (left). Boyd was one of 771 people who received vaccines at the ASD Education Center on Jan. 7, 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage School District unexpectedly became the city’s first large-scale public vaccine distribution site Thursday as hundreds of people, mostly seniors, showed up for their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Related: Anchorage to open mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic for eligible residents

Initially, the district expected to vaccinate about 250 people at the clinic. 

“However, with the number of people that we realized we’re able to move through the line very quickly and efficiently, we’ve doubled our capacity,” said district Healthcare Services Director Jennifer Patronas. “We’re on target to do about 500 today.”

People were lined up outside the doors of the Education Center, and after getting their shots they waited in the room where the school board normally meets to monitor for adverse reactions. 

people wait in line for a vaccine
People wait in line to get the Moderna Covid-19 vaccination. A total of 771 people received vaccines at the Anchorage School District Education Center on Jan. 7, 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Read more: An ‘imperfect system’: Getting Alaska’s seniors signed up for the COVID-19 vaccine is not going smoothly

The clinic, which opened Wednesday, had vaccinated 998 people as of Thursday evening. 

While it is not a walk-up site, people who are eligible for a vaccine (currently healthcare workers and those over the age of 65) can sign up for an appointment through the state’s website or add their name to a waitlist. Patronas said additional appointment slots are added throughout the day as they become available.

The district, which Patronas said is partnering with the state on its vaccination rollout plan, has experience providing thousands of flu vaccines each year, Patronas said, and used that experience to stand up the COVID-19 vaccination clinic. 

“We saw that we had a lot of capacity to give a lot of vaccine in a quick amount of time,” Patronas said. “Our nurses were excited to provide the vaccine to the community and we were excited that they wanted to participate.”

Jennifer Perkins, a registered nurse with the district said, most of the shots she gave went to senior citizens.

“Every person that has come here, the elders, have been excited,” Perkins said. 

Dave Boyd, a retired Chemistry teacher, was one of Thursday’s vaccine recipients. Boyd said being retired, he hasn’t been as directly affected by the pandemic as people currently in the workforce. “[But] I’m feeling really thankful that I got to come down here today and, and get the vaccine,” Boyd said.

a person holds a Covid-19 vaccination record card
Retired chemistry teacher David Boyd holds up his COVID-19 vaccination record card after receiving one of the 771 vaccinations administered at the Anchorage School District Education Center on Jan. 7, 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Boyd said no one should have any hesitation getting the vaccine. “I’ve taught chemistry in schools for the last 30 years. I think I know enough, hopefully, that I feel comfortable that this vaccine is fine.” 

The clinic will remain open until Friday Jan. 15. Patronas said the district is not reserving any vaccines for its nearly 6,000 staff members at this time, and does not plan to run the clinic through the school year, as nurses and staff will be primarily focused on reopening school buildings to students for full-time learning on Jan. 19. 

Read more: With teachers next in line for vaccines, some in Anchorage want to postpone return to face-to-face instruction

The district plans to administer all of the vaccines they currently have, about 2000 doses, and will order additional doses from the state to get through the remainder of their clinic schedule and to provide secondary shots to everyone who received their first dose at the Ed Center.

Jeff Chen contributed reporting to this story.

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