Almost 400 miles south of Anchorage, Alaska, Veterans on Kodiak Island lined up to get their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine at the Kodiak Area Native Association (KANA) clinic.

Kodiak has a large Veteran population, but the only way to reach it from the mainland is by air.

Bringing promises to Kodiak

“I’m bringing promises to Kodiak,” said Alaska VA Healthcare nurse Raymond Gilbert after arriving on a commercial flight with a cooler containing the vaccine. “VA does whatever it needs to do to offer world-class health care to our Veterans, wherever they are.”

Coast Guard Veteran Opal Oliver receives the vaccine.

Pictured above, the COVID-19 vaccine arrives on Kodiak Island.

Two weeks prior, Veterans on the island started getting phone calls from Alaska VA staff, checking to see if they wanted to be scheduled for the vaccine clinic.

“You know, if it hadn’t been for VA calling last week, we probably still wouldn’t have our shots today,” said Coast Guard Veteran Michael Oliver. He and his wife Opal, also a Coast Guard Veteran, received their vaccinations that day.

Alaska VA staff vaccinated a total of 50 Veterans on Kodiak. They plan to return on March 18 to administer second doses.

“Easier than the flu shot”

“Oh, it was easier than the flu shot, really,” said Army Veteran Danny Thomas. “It was quick, easy, and I hope I get my community to decrease the numbers in Kodiak.”

The vaccine clinic was sponsored by a partnership between Alaska VA Healthcare and KANA. Working with other community and tribal partners, Alaska VA plans more clinics in remote areas throughout the state.

“It takes a lot of imagination to get out to these rural sites,” said Alaska VA Healthcare Acting Director Thomas Steinbrunner.

Katie Yearley is a public affairs specialist for Alaska VA Healthcare. Images are courtesy the Alaska VA Healthcare Public Affairs Office.

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Published on Mar. 5, 2021

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