Plane, sled, and snowmobile.
That’s what it took for a handful of female health care workers to deliver the COVID vaccine to rural communities in Alaska!
A pharmacist, a medical doctor, and two nurses made the trek to distribute the vaccine in Kotzebue, a city 33 miles north of the Arctic Circle, in one day.
According to “Good Morning America,” the conditions were far from ideal with limited hours of sunlight and subzero temperatures.
In order to deliver the vaccinations, the team of women reportedly carried the COVID-19 vaccine off of an Alaskan “bush plane” and onto a sled attached to a snowmobile. Once the snowmobile got them to their location, a local villager pulled them the rest of the way to a village where elders, many of whom are immobile, were waiting to be vaccinated against the novel virus.
"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 25-year-old resident pharmacist from Tennessee told the publication.
"We got to go from car to commercial airline, got picked up in a Sno-Go with a sled behind it, then we got on charter air, then we got picked up by a four-wheeler with a little trailer behind it, more Sno-Go, more sled," said James Austin V, a registered nurse. "It’s actually more navigable out here in the winter than it is in the summer because you can travel on the tundra and all the water turns to navigable ice."
Nurse Heather Kenison told the outlet that she wrapped up the vaccine in a protective envelope and held it like a baby under her coat to prevent it from freezing inside the needle in the frigid weather.
"We did the best we could, we had to kind of come up with it in the moment," Bengaard explained.
One of the patients they vaccinated was a 92-year-old who survived the 1918 Spanish flu that killed many native Alaskans.
"It was very important for her family that she be vaccinated so that she be given a better chance for this pandemic," said Dr. Katrine Bengaard. "The 1918 flu was really devastating to some of the communities up here and it was just wonderful to be able to offer that to her."
In total, the team of women weathered rough conditions to deliver 65 vaccinations. And they said they’ll keep going until everyone has been vaccinated.
"We made it work and we had a really good time together," added Bengaard. "We were all willing to crawl around trying to get into this tiny little plane. We were all willing to do what we needed to do."
"it's just such an incredible opportunity to work with them," Dean said of the team, adding, "It was definitely an impactful and powerful moment to realize that we've all braved quite a bit to get there and provide care."
Alaskan state Sen. Donny Olson, who was vaccinated near his home, thanked the health care workers for their dedication.
"No matter the circumstances, no matter the weather, they are going out there by snow machine, by sled, by boat, by plane, whatever it takes and for their efforts, I am so grateful!," he wrote on Facebook.