January 17, 2021

Sled dog race

Nome, Alaska is above the arctic circle and is icebound in winter. In the winter of 1925, the only way to get there was overland by dog sled. Now people can fly if the weather allows. Nome became famous when an outbreak of diphtheria occurred that threatened the lives of many. Diptheria, now rarely seen due to vaccinations, causes fever, croup, and sore throat with white patches that can block the airways. Infections can also involve the heart and kidneys from toxins released by the bacteria. In the early part of the last century, a serum derived from horses infected with diphtheria was used to help treat infected people, similar to the “convalescent serum” we have seen used in COVD-19 patients. It was able to neutralize the toxins released by the bacteria. A call for help via telegraph was sent out by the local doctor and The Serum Run to Nome was begun. It took 20 mushers and 150 dogs to travel 675 miles via dog sled relay over 5 1/2 days to deliver the serum. The entire US followed the news by new fangled radio and dog celebrities were made. The serum arrived and lives were saved.

This, of course, is the origins of the annual Iditarod Sled Dog Race along the old Iditarod Trail that The Serum Run to Nome followed. Later snowmobiles and airplanes with skis replaced much of the need for mushers, although the race keeps up the tradition.

Still, the winter weather causes challenges for the mostly Alaska Native Population who live in the far north. I love this Good Morning America story about the crew that used planes and snowmobiles to deliver vaccine to the elders in isolated communities in Alaska. Alaska is finding ways to deliver the vaccine to its patients most in need.

Getting enough vaccine to distribute is the biggest challenge right now. Despite announcing earlier this week that the ongoing administration is releasing reserves of vaccines, they actually don’t exist. The roll out has been bungled, not surprisingly. The Biden team has announced their plan and will help the rest of the states distribute vaccine doses, which they are confident are being manufactured. At least now there is an actual plan, so we won’t be on our own. We just need more doses.

The good news is that two more vaccines will be approved in the next few weeks, I will write about them more in the future. Approval of more vaccines will help with supply and our ability to get more people vaccinated. In the meantime, people are using all available ways to find a vaccine. Vaccine envy is real, but waiting may have to suffice for many. In the meantime, stay sensible and keep up your safety routine.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, the race is on.

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.