This article appeared in the January 21, 2021 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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How to deliver vaccines to rural Alaska? Mush has been said.

Dustin Safranek/Ketchikan Daily News/AP
A sticker indicates when Mary Ann Olsen will need to get a second and final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine after an initial dose was administered to first responders, assisted living facility workers, and their patients on Dec. 18, 2020, in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Eva Botkin-Kowacki
Science, environment, and technology writer

They come by plane, snowmobile, and sled. In subzero temperatures, an all-female team of medical workers are bringing precious cargo – the COVID-19 vaccine – across the frozen Alaskan tundra to remote villages using whatever transportation is necessary. At times, they’ve had to wrap the vaccine in extra protection from the cold, even tucking it under their coats to keep it from freezing. 

“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, a resident pharmacist on the team, told Good Morning America

The team’s efforts echo the famous 1925 serum run to Nome, when diphtheria antitoxin was transported across the then-U.S. territory of Alaska by dog sled relay. (You might know this tale from the 1995 movie “Balto.”)

But Alaska isn’t the only place where health care workers are going the extra mile to make sure their rural patients aren’t left behind as the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out. A doctor in Michigan has been hand-delivering doses from the MidMichigan Medical Center in Midland to the hospital in the small city of Alpena, a drive of almost 150 miles. 

It was “much like delivering a new baby and handing that baby off to parents, who have just spent months and sometimes years thinking and dreaming and placing their hopes in that baby,” Dr. Richard Bates told CNN.

This article appeared in the January 21, 2021 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 01/21 edition
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