Alaska embarked on its effort to distribute doses of the COVID-19 vaccine this month, but only a fraction of people in the state have received it so far.
Across multiple tiers and phases, much about who will receive the vaccine — and when — is still being determined, and the state remains in the initial stages of distribution as the number of available vaccine doses is limited.
Alaska is in the first phase of vaccination, Phase 1A, which began in the middle of December.
As of Friday, Alaska had administered about 11,800 first doses of the vaccine from manufacturers Moderna and Pfizer. In total, the state has roughly 60,000 doses of the vaccine available for the month of December, but the number of vaccines available for January is not yet clear, officials said on a call Wednesday.
Here’s what to expect going forward.
The initial stage of vaccination is known as Phase 1A, and in Alaska that’s further broken down into three separate tiers.
The first two tiers included those who started receiving the vaccine this month. They included residents and staff at long-term care facilities, hospital-based frontline health care workers, emergency personnel, community health aides and people who are performing vaccinations.
The third tier of people in the state’s first phase will start receiving vaccines next month. Based on recommendations from a state allocation committee, the third tier includes people who work in health care settings who are at the highest risk of getting COVID-19 and are also considered essential to the health care system, doing regular work that can’t be postponed or done remotely.
They must also meet the following criteria, listed by the state:
• Have direct patient contact, or have direct contact with infectious materials from patients; and
• Provide essential services in a health care setting that cannot be offered remotely or performed via telework; and
• Provide a service in a health care setting that cannot be postponed without detrimental impact to the patient’s short-term or long-term health outcomes.
Those who fall into this category can start signing up to receive the vaccine on Wednesday, officials said last week. The vaccinations will be by appointment only and will occur on a first-come, first-served basis, Tari O’Connor with the state health department said on a recent call. The vaccines will be available at clinics around the state and their locations will be posted online this week. The clinics include sites like community health centers, hospitals and pharmacies across the state.
Who’s next after that
After Phase 1A, the state will move into Phase 1B but has not yet decided which Alaskans will fall into that group. A federal advisory committee issued its recommendations on who should be included, and the Alaska committee on Monday is taking public comment regarding who should be included in the state’s specific guidelines.
The federal advisory committee recommended including people who are over age 74 and essential workers as part of Phase 1B, while Phase 1C would include people 65 to 74 as well as those ages 16 to 64 with high-risk medical conditions and other essential workers who weren’t included during Phase 1B.
Phases 1B and 1C include a significant number of people — many more than the number of vaccine doses available, Tessa Walker Linderman, who heads up the state’s vaccine task force, said last week. That’s where the state’s committee will be helpful in determining who specifically should be next in line. While the federal committee issues broader guidelines, Alaska’s committee breaks them down into smaller groups.
Those interested in providing input on how the vaccines should be distributed in Alaska can do so Monday during a public meeting scheduled for 4 to 5 p.m. You can submit written comments beforehand or sign up to provide a 1-minute comment during the meeting.