Alaska becomes first state in US to open vaccines to nearly all of its residents

Virus Outbreak-Alaska, Alaska Governor
Posted at 9:53 AM, Mar 10, 2021

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Gov. Mike Dunleavy says Alaska has become the first state to drop eligibility requirements and allow anyone 16 or older who lives or works in the state to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

In the state, the Pfizer vaccine is available to people 16 and older, while the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines are available to residents 18 and up.

Dunleavy made the announcement Tuesday following his own bout with COVID-19. He hailed the move to open up eligibility as a historic step.

“I couldn’t be prouder of Alaska’s response,” said Dunleavy in a statement. “From being the first state to offer widespread testing, to maintaining one of the lowest mortality rates in the country, to rolling out vaccinations to every willing Alaskan, we got here by working together.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker shows Alaska leading states in the percentage of its population to have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The governor’s office says some of the state’s regions, like Kodiak Island and the Petersburg Borough, are nearing or exceeding 90% vaccination rates among seniors. And in the Nome Census Area, over 60% of residents age 16 and over have received at least one shot, and roughly 291,000 doses have been administered statewide.

With Alaska being so big and many communities isolated, health care workers are going to extreme measures to deliver doses to small communities.

EW Scripps correspondent Alexa Liacko tagged along with a group who regularly transports vaccines via planes, dog sleds and snowmobiles to administer doses to people in villages.