Alaska expands vaccine eligibility to age 55-plus, essential workers and others

Anchorage Health Department public health nurse Molly Carver administers the Covid-19 vaccine to Malia Tuga at the community vaccine clinic held at Manai Fou Assembly of God Church in Airport Heights on Feb. 23, 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Alaska is opening COVID-19 vaccines to all Alaskans age 55 and older, those deemed essential workers and other groups, the state announced Wednesday.

Phase 1c eligibility opens vaccine to those who live in multigenerational homes or in communities with limited running water or sewage system. It also opens vaccines to essential workers, a broad category that includes people who work in critical manufacturing, financial services, transportation and communications, among other professions.

A detailed description of who is eligible under Phase 1c can be found on the state’s vaccine website.

As of Tuesday morning, Alaska had over 2,000 open appointments listed on its vaccine website. 

Alaska has been working faster than many other states in allowing new groups to be vaccinated. In February, the state opened vaccinations to teachers, high-risk Alaskans over 50, and workers and residents of congregate facilities. Southcentral Foundation, Anchorage’s main tribal healthcare provider, also recently opened vaccines to all residents over 40.

Alaska has held the top spot in the country for several weeks for the percentage of its residents who have been vaccinated. Almost a quarter of the state has received at least one dose, according to the New York Times. The state got a higher-than-expected allocation of vaccines in March and there has been encouraging news nationally about vaccine production. President Joe Biden recently announced that by May, there would be enough vaccines for every adult American.

But health experts say there are concerning signs, with COVID-19 with cases starting to creep up in many areas after falling dramatically in January and February. In Alaska, cases have fallen since their December highs, but have plateaued at the high levels they were in September and November.

State labs have also recently detected troubling new variants, such as the P.1 variant that originated in Brazil that some scientists fear can reinfect people who already had COVID-19.  Health officials are racing to vaccinate as many Alaskans as possible before those new, more transmissible variants take over.

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