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Boats and Bravery

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Alaska is leading the United States in Covid-19 vaccinations per capita, thanks to a herculean effort by healthcare workers — a campaign dubbed “Project Togo” after a popular pooch from a 1925 rescue mission in the Great North — to reach remote towns and tribes by any means necessary.

From small aircraft and boats to sled dogs, the vaccine roll-out has been as unique as the landscape that 732,000 people call home.

In December, the Associated Press reported that when poor visibility grounded flights to deliver the Pfizer vaccine to the remote village of Seldovia, a charter captain named Curtis Jackson was called in to ferry the precious cargo — along with four medical personnel — aboard his 32-foot Munson landing craft through 4-foot seas to its destination. The 15-mile crossing typically takes Jackson 30 minutes, but due to deteriorating conditions it took him an hour.

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On his Facebook page, Jackson posted a video of the conditions, along with a short post titled, “A Little Victory Story.”

It reads: “Conditions on Kachemak Bay prevented planes from flying this morning, so I got the honor of delivering our rock-star medical staff bringing the first round of Covid vaccine across the bay to the community of Seldovia. That little blue box [carrying the vaccine] was the best Christmas present a tired boat captain could ask for my friends. It’s been a long century of a year in Alaska, but today felt like the light of a coming dawn and better days ahead.”

Even during the winter, travel by boat is a necessity in the remote regions of Alaska, which has led the state to such measures as using fishing boats as a vaccine location and creating boat-up vaccination sites. The guerilla-style vaccination system has allowed Alaska to become the first state to offer shots to all residents.

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