ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Anchorage Health Department has arranged two mobile clinics to provide coronavirus vaccinations specifically targeting members of Alaska’s community of Pacific Islanders.

The clinics scheduled on Tuesday and Thursday this week were the first targeting a specific community since the pandemic began, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The focused clinic strategy was used by the department during past illness outbreaks.

There were about 160 appointments available for the two clinics, officials said.

“In order to make sure some of these other groups get access, we basically created some private clinics,” said Christy Lawton, Anchorage’s public health division manager. “We’ll still serve people who are eligible but we’re not getting the message out the same way.”

The clinics were advertised via word of mouth among Pacific Islanders rather than the usual appointment sites accessible to the public, officials said.

Advertising

“The minute any appointments go on those, they go like hotcakes. People with time to sit at a computer and refresh get them,” Lawton said.

The targeted clinics were possible because Anchorage health officials had discretion in the use of monthly vaccine supplies from the state, allowing the city to do “pocket allocations” like the Pacific Islander clinics.

“Our charge from the CDC and state is to achieve equity access for Alaskans,” Anchorage Health Department epidemiologist Janet Johnston said, referring to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The strategies to be able to do that have to vary and be as diverse as the people we are trying to vaccinate.”

Officials said the clinics also were made by possible with the assistance of community leaders such as Lusiana Hansen, president of the Polynesian Association of Alaska.

“Our communities have less access to health clinics, doctors, and also transportation,” Hansen said. “Our people, they gather in churches and congregations. It’s the easiest and the fastest way for us to get the vaccine.”

The majority of the state’s Pacific Islander communities live in Anchorage, where nearly half of people age 60 and over have been vaccinated, data show.

More than a third of Alaska Native or American Indian people have been vaccinated through a separate Indian Health Service allocation for tribal members, employees and household members.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.