Tribal health organizations are unsung heroes of Alaska’s COVID-19 response and vaccination

At first glance, with our vast geographic spread, limited infrastructure, and unpredictable winter conditions, Alaska would be an unlikely candidate to lead the United States in vaccinating its people against COVID-19. And yet, after nearly a year of uncertainty, loss and heartbreak, Alaska is leading the way in expanding access to immunization, giving hope that we may be able to take a step forward in our fight against the disease. COVID-19. As the heads of state and the people of Alaska reflect on how far we’ve come over the past year, it provides an opportunity to recognize the foundational partnerships that have been essential to achieving these milestones.

As the pandemic progressed into 2020 and infections skyrocketed statewide, alongside other minority groups, rural Alaskan communities and Alaskan natives dominated the state in some of the states. The country’s highest case rates and incidents of severe infection or death from the disease. Social determinants of health – such as lack of access to adequate sanitation infrastructure, overcrowded homes, and limited access to medical resources – have been factors that have contributed to this disparity and the premature loss of health. loved ones for many Alaskans.

And yet, the challenges brought on by the pandemic have underscored the tireless courage and determination of frontline health workers in communities large and small, rural and urban. After years of downward pressure on the state budget and continued reductions in spending by the Division of Public Health, the pandemic has exposed the limits and limited capacity of the state of Alaska. But collaboration with Alaska’s world-class Tribal Health System has resulted in rapid statewide COVID-19 testing, expanding much-needed contact tracing resources, and providing a network. clinics and hospital systems to provide high quality medical support. Now, as COVID-19 vaccines have been rolled out statewide, tribal health partners have played a critical role in supporting Alaska’s national leadership on vaccination rates and enlargement in early March. access to the general public.

Since December, tribal health organizations have been quiet champions – working diligently to calculate complex logistics, charter flights, transport vaccines over frozen icy roads, and ensure that no vaccine dose is wasted. As early as the second week of January, the state’s tribal health organizations began using its Sovereign Nation COVID-19 vaccine supplement to expand eligibility criteria, effectively offering vaccination to teachers, essential frontline workers. and residents in general, regardless of IHS eligibility, well. before the state can. This supplement has expanded Alaska’s access to the COVID-19 vaccine by adding more than 92,000 first doses to what the state receives from the federal government, which will save lives, protect families and speed up the timing of the ‘Alaska as we work to achieve collective immunity. Now, in a trend similar to what we are seeing in Alaska, tribal health systems have been critical in expanding access to immunization in Oklahoma and Washington.

Citing the disproportionate hardship felt by Alaska Natives throughout this pandemic and the Sovereign Nation of Alaska Vaccine Supplement, ANMC Administrator Dr. Robert Onders recently said: “ For equitable results, disproportionate investments are needed. ” Healthcare and the response to COVID-19 is a team sport. Alaska’s Tribal Health System has leveraged federal resources and embarked on ambitious pandemic response efforts that have benefited all Alaskans and supported the state response that recently gained national attention. . Quyana – thank you – to these unsung heroes.

Representative Tiffany Zulkosky, from Bethel, is the chair of the tribal affairs committee and the co-chair of the House health and social services committee. She represents House District 38.

Representative Bryce Edgmon was born and raised in Dillingham. It represents Bristol Bay and the Aleutian Islands.

Representative Neal Foster represents House District 39 in the Alaska State Legislature. He is co-chairman of the House finance committee.

Representative Josiah Patkotak, of Utqiaġvik, represents the 40-house district in the Alaska State Legislature. He is chairman of the House Resources Committee.

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