More than 1,300 vaccine doses given at Alaska airports; half of eligible residents fully vaccinated

A nurse prepares to administer a dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine at a clinic in Anchorage. (Hannah Lies/Alaska Public Media)

Sites at Alaska’s three biggest airports have given out just over 1,300 doses of COVID-19 vaccine by June 19.

That’s according to the latest data for the state’s program to get Alaskans and travelers vaccinated at airports in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau. The shots started at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on May 15, in Juneau on May 22 and in Fairbanks on June 1.

So far, many of the people opting to get a shot at one of the airports are Alaskans, said Tari O’Connor, deputy director of Alaska’s Division of Public Health.

In fact, during one week in the middle of June, roughly 70% of the people getting jabbed at an Alaska airport were residents.

O’Connor said that’s not surprising.

“I think we know that Alaskans use air travel to do probably more than residents of many other states,” she said. “We use it for both travel and for pleasure, but also for necessities, right? Alaskans use airports to get to work, they use it to access medical care, shopping for necessities, all sorts of things.”

Other airport draws, O’Connor said: The vaccine sites are generally open later, and people getting their shots don’t have to pay for parking.

“Which was done with Alaskans in mind, community members in mind,” she said.

As for which vaccine is in demand? O’Connor said most people want a shot of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine.

“It looks like about 10% of the folks getting vaccinated at the airport sites are in that 12 to 16 age range. So that’s the only one they can get,” she said. “And then it also seems like, just anecdotally, I’ve heard a little bit about people who are coming from maybe other countries, they’re more familiar, maybe, with the Pfizer.”

O’Connor said it’s difficult to say how the number of shots distributed so far compares to expectations because the health department has never had a vaccination program quite like this one.

“Honestly, through this whole pandemic, it’s hard to have expectations,” she said. “Because so much of it is like, just, we’ve never done this before.”

It’s also difficult to gauge just how much vaccinations will ramp up or down in July, she said.

On the one hand, traveler numbers are expected to increase, she said. But on the other, the vaccine is widely available now, so it’s possible many people won’t come to Alaska looking to get jabbed.

For now, O’Connor said, the airport vaccine sites are expected to run through the winter, but the program could change as demand for the vaccine changes.

Meanwhile, half of Alaskans age 12 and up are fully vaccinated, according to health department data on Monday. That’s almost 303,000 people.

The Aleutians East Borough is the region with the state’s highest rate of vaccination: 85% of residents age 12 and up have at least one dose of the vaccine. In second, 81% of eligible residents in the Bristol Bay and Lake and Peninsula regions have at least one shot.

In Anchorage, 58% of Alaskans age 12 and up have at least their first dose of the vaccine.

Alaska Public Media

Alaska Public Media is our partner station in Anchorage. KTOO collaborates with partners across the state to cover important news and to share stories with our audiences.

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