Jan. 19, 2021 -- An all-female team of healthcare workers is delivering COVID-19 vaccines in rural Alaska, often through harsh winter conditions.
The team, which includes a pharmacist, a doctor, and two nurses, is traveling by plane, sled, and snowmobile to administer the vaccines to older residents in northern Alaska. They’re often faced with limited daylight hours, subzero temperatures, and remote locations to get the vaccines to people who are ready and waiting.
“It’s challenging getting the vaccine up here to begin with and then getting it out to the villages brings on a whole new set of challenges and logistical issues,” Meredith Dean, the pharmacist, told Good Morning America on Friday.
“Time is of the utmost importance,” she said.
Traveling from village to village by snowmobile, Dr. Katrine Bengaard and Heather Kenison, one of the nurses, scheduled home visits to reach older residents who are immobile or can’t leave their homes.
In some cases, the team delivered vaccines more than 30 miles north of the Arctic Circle, which poses challenges for vaccine storage and distribution. Kenison, for instance, wrapped a COVID-19 vaccine in a protective envelope and carried it in her coat for the snowmobile ride so the dose wouldn’t freeze inside the needle in the freezing air.
The team has traveled hundreds of miles across northern Alaska to vaccinate 65 people in multiple villages. They plan to continue delivering doses this year to ensure everyone who wants a vaccine can get one.
“We made it work and we had a really good time together,” Bengaard told GMA. “We were all willing to do what we needed to do.”