Alaska News

Alaska expands COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to those 55 and older, essential workers and high-risk populations

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Alaska on Wednesday announced a major expansion of its list of those eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. It now includes Alaskans 55 and older, as well as people over 16 who are essential workers, live in multigenerational homes, are considered potentially “high-risk” for severe illness or live in a community where homes lack water and sewer systems.

The newly eligible group can now sign up for a vaccine appointment, health department officials said in a statement Wednesday morning.

“While vaccine supply remains limited, we are offering it to groups who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, who are at risk for severe illness or death or who work in essential jobs,” the state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, said in a statement.

The state this month is expecting 103,120 first doses of the vaccine from drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna, which includes allocations for the Indian Health Service and a supplemental February allotment, officials said.

Additionally, Alaska is set to receive 8,900 doses of the newly authorized Johnson & Johnson vaccine — administered with a single shot — over the next two weeks, officials said.

“Expanding the vaccine eligibility to reach more people is significant in protecting Alaskans and in getting Alaska reopened and our economy back up and thriving,” Gov. Mike Dunleavy said in the statement.

Those already eligible for a vaccine include most health care workers, people age 65 and older, people living and working in congregate settings, some pandemic responders and people age 50 and older who have a high-risk medical condition or work in an essential job.

[How to check if you’re eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in Alaska, and how to sign up]

Health officials said in the statement that the new group of eligible Alaskans includes “anyone who has a medical condition that places a person at ‘high-risk’ or ‘might be high-risk’ for severe illness from COVID-19, according to the CDC, or who is considered high-risk by a person’s medical provider.”

Based on the lists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pregnant women, smokers, people diagnosed with cancer, individuals with moderate to severe asthma, obese and overweight individuals and those with type 1 or type 2 diabetes — among a range of other medical conditions — are now eligible for the vaccine.

A person’s provider can also recommend someone get vaccinated, Zink told reporters Wednesday, which means someone with a substance-use disorder or intellectual disabilities that might put them at risk for a COVID-19 infection may be eligible.

Essential workers over age 16 are defined by a wide-ranging list from the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and are included in the new eligibility group. That means not only frontline workers, but “any” essential workers, Zink said.

The federal essential worker list is broad, and it includes workers in law enforcement, food service, agriculture, manufacturing, finance, repair and maintenance, transportation and communications, along with workers who provide personal and household goods. That list also extends to clergy, weather forecasters and those working within the judicial system, among many others.

Newly eligible are people living in multigenerational households, including households with three or more generations or “skipped generations,” such as a grandchild living with an elder, officials said in the statement.

Unserved communities are defined as places where many homes do not have water and sewer systems, health officials said.

Additionally, in Anchorage, Alaskans 40 and older can now get vaccinated through Southcentral Foundation, the health care organization announced Monday. Southcentral Foundation is an Alaska Native-owned health care organization, which means it receives its allotment from the Indian Health Service and can decide vaccine eligibility separate from the state’s tiers.

Officials urged those eligible to regularly check for appointments as more will be added.