Alaska Becomes First State to End Restrictions on Vaccine Eligibility

Front-line caregivers wait in line to receive a Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020, at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, Alaska.

Front-line caregivers wait in line to receive a Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020, at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, Alaska. Loren Holmes/Anchorage Daily News via AP, Pool

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

The governor's office said shots of the Covid-19 vaccine will now be available to all residents age 16 and older.

Alaska is the first state to end restrictions on who can get Covid-19 vaccine shots, offering them to all residents ages 16 or older.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced the policy change on Tuesday and said it is effective immediately. “This historic step is yet another nationwide first for Alaska," he said in a statement, going on to describe the move as "rolling out vaccinations to every willing Alaskan."

Alaska is one of the leading states in the nation when it comes to vaccination rates and has drawn national attention as a vaccine rollout success story, as other many other states have stumbled ramping up their programs. Tribal health organizations have played a leading role in getting people vaccinated there.

Figures from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center show that 119,000 people, or about 16% of the state's residents, are fully vaccinated, with about 300,000 doses given in total. Alaska, with about 730,000 residents, has one of the smallest populations of any state.

The state with the next-highest share of its population fully vaccinated—which has so far meant receiving two shots in most cases—is New Mexico at about 14%, according to the Johns Hopkins data. But the state has over two million residents, more than double Alaska, and so it has administered over 839,000 doses.

While its population may be small, Alaska face unique public health challenges compared to other states. Its vast geography and many remote communities, have meant resorting to options like planes, amphibious vehicles and snowmobiles to deliver vaccines.

The governor's office pointed to parts of the state where it says around 90% of seniors are now vaccinated, and other communities where more than 60% of residents have received at least one dose.

Under health guidelines, the Pfizer vaccine will be available to people in Alaska 16 and older and Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines to those 18 and older. Along with residents, people working Alaska will also be eligible for the shots.

Bill Lucia is a senior editor for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.

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