This U.S. state is the first to allow everyone over the age of 16 to get the COVID vaccine

alaska covid vaccine
Photo via Bernard Spragg/Flickr (Public Domain)

Alaska will become the first state in the U.S. to open up the COVID-19 vaccine to anyone 16 and older, officials announced on March 9—a move that Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) is touting as an indication of how well the state is responding to the pandemic. 

“I couldn’t be prouder of Alaska’s response,” Dunleavy said in a statement carried in an Alaska Public Radio article. “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.”

That article noted that about 25% of the Alaska population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, placing it among the highest vaccination rates in the country for any state. In many rural communities, vaccination rates have surpassed 50% with some villages vaccinating 90% or more of their people.

“We want to get our economy back up and running,” Dunleavy said, via the New York Times. “We want to get our society back up and running. We want to put this virus behind us—as far as possible, as soon as possible.”

Throughout Alaska, the Pfizer vaccine is available to people 16 and older, while the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines are available as options for those 18 and older.

Other states are still curtailing who can get the vaccine to a greater degree, though as the Washington Post reported, “Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Monday adults 50 and older could start reserving appointments this week. Indiana and West Virginia have opened access to the same age group, and Michigan will do so on March 20, after first targeting people in that bracket with high-risk conditions.” 

In the state of New York, those 60 and older can get the vaccine as of March 11, while many states still remain with a 65 and older policy for people without underlying medical conditions placing them at higher risk for contracting COVID-19. 

The Times also noted that an expanded list of workers throughout New York state expected to gain vaccination eligibility starting the week of March 15 includes public works employees, social service and child service caseworkers, government inspectors, sanitation workers, election workers, Department of Motor Vehicle employees, and county clerks.

Just a week prior, Alaska had opened its vaccination program to those 55 and over, as well as for those in a range of jobs deemed essential or for those with high-risk medical conditions regardless of age. Even with that expansion of eligibility, there were still spots left unclaimed, prompting the doors to open to a broader age spectrum of Alaskans. 

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Sources: Alaska Public Radio, New York Times, Washington Post

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