By Melinda Munson
Skagway is number one where it really counts. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), the tiny tourist town has the highest COVID-19 vaccination rate of any county in the nation, with 51.5% of its population inoculated.
The findings, posted on March 29, don’t include a recent batch of vaccinations which occurred April 2.
According to the Municipality of Skagway, as of April 2, 634 Skagway residents completed two doses of COVID-19 vaccinations and 673 residents have received first doses, totaling 1,307 shots given.
Six other Alaska counties placed in the top ten including Yakutat (48%), Petersburg (46.4%), Sitka (44.5%), Haines (42.7%), Nome (41.8%) and Hoonah-Angoon 41.4%.
According to kff.org, the average vaccination rate for the total population of the United States is 15.8% with 46.7% of those 65 and older being fully vaccinated. In Alaska, 21.9% of the population is fully vaccinated, as of March 28.
In their report, the foundation emphasized the inequality of pandemic.
“COVID-19 has disproportionately affected certain underserved and high-risk populations, including people of color, those with underlying health conditions, and those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged,” the foundation said.
According to KFF, Skagway ranks low in factors that can limit access to COVID-19 vaccinations. The borough has a low share of people of color, serious medical conditions and social vulnerability.
All but one of the top 10 counties listed by the foundation were considered non-metro. Skagway has an estimated population of 800.
Skagway was initially off to a slow start with vaccinations until SEARHC in Haines, a non-profit health consortium, offered doses to Skagway. SEARHC received their COVID-19 immunizations from Indian Affairs.
“I was marveling at Skagway’s vaccinations,” Assemblymember Orion Hanson said. I think we’re leading the world in some ways. I think it’s important to recognize why we got so many vaccinations so quickly, and that’s because of the SEARHC clinic in Haines … we should write a letter to SEARCH and all of us sign it.”
‘It’s a great gift and we shouldn’t take it for granted,” he said.
The Dahl Memorial Clinic has access to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and now, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen — a one-shot inoculation. Call 983-2255 to schedule an appointment for anyone 16 or older.