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As regional cases climb again, YKHC prepares to vaccinate children older than 6 months

A child gets a kiss from her dad after getting her COVID-19 vaccine during a pediatric clinic in November 2021, at Riverbend Elementary School in Juneau.
Rashah McChesney
A child gets a kiss from her dad after getting her COVID-19 vaccine during a pediatric clinic in November 2021 at Riverbend Elementary School in Juneau.

COVID-19 cases in the region have increased by nearly half over the past week, compared to the week before.

And as cases climb, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC) encourages parents to sign up their 6-month to 5-year-olds for vaccination. YKHC plans to begin offering COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 6 months to 5 years old on Wednesday, July 6. Parents and caretakers are encouraged to register their children for vaccination as soon as possible. In a statement released by YKHC, the organization outlined how to sign up the region’s younger residents.

In Bethel, residents are encouraged to call the COVID-19 hotline at 907-543-6949 to schedule an appointment at the hospital. In villages, parents should call 907-543-6420 for information on when vaccines will arrive in their village. If the call goes to voicemail, YKHC asks callers to leave their name and contact information.

In a statement, YKHC Chief of Staff Dr. Ellen Hodges emphasized the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations for young children. During the COVID-19 surge brought on by the omicron variant this winter, Hodges said that children aged 6 months to 4 years old were more likely to be hospitalized with severe infection than any other age group. At the time, this age group was the only one ineligible for vaccination.

The vaccine rollout comes as cases are rising in the region. Last week, YKHC reported 160 new COVID-19 cases, and the newborn to 9-year-old population accounted for 35 of those cases, the most of any age group during that time period. Cases grew by half compared to the prior week.

Over the past week, the Y-K Delta reported a case rate that is three times higher than the nation’s and 1.8 times higher than the state’s.

Per 100,000 people over seven days, 606.9 developed COVID-19 in-region. That’s compared to the national case rate of 196 cases per 100,000 people, and the state case rate of 332 case per 100,000 people over the same period of time. While the national case rate fell over the past week, the regional and state rates increased significantly.

There were no regional hospitalizations or medevacs due to COVID-19 infections over the past week, and YKHC reports that the Y-K Delta is experiencing a medium community COVID-19 level. The region has remained at a medium COVID-19 level since March, when YKHC began announcing these levels.

Over the past week, in alphabetical order by community, YKHC announced one case in Akiachak, 17 in Alakanuk, three in Anvik, one in Atmautluak, 32 in Bethel, four in Eek, two in Hooper Bay, one in Kipnuk, 10 in Kotlik, five in Kwethluk, five in Kwigillingok, two in Lower Kalskag, 16 in Marshall, one in Mekoryuk, six in Mountain Village, 17 in Napakiak, five in Napaskiak, one in Newtok, four in Nunapitchuk, two in Russian Mission, eight in St. Mary’s, seven in Toksook Bay, four in Tuntutuliak, two in Tununak, and one in an unnamed Y-K Delta village.

Elyssa (she/her) is the Wellness Programming Producer and a second year Jesuit Volunteer/Americorps Member at KYUK. She loves dogs, listening to podcasts and playing ABBA to close out the Birthday Line.
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