Alaska to offer tourists COVID-19 vaccines starting June 1

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Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy said Friday that COVID-19 vaccines will be available at major airports in the state from June 1 to reveal plans to boost the state’s pandemic-stricken tourism industry.

Dunleavy, a Republican, outlined plans for a national marketing campaign aimed at attracting tourists with state aid, and said the vaccination offer was “probably another good reason to come to the state of Alaska this summer.”

Dunleavy and other heads of state have urged large cruise lines to return to Alaska after COVID-19 restrictions kept them out last year, which hit tough businesses and communities, especially in southeastern Alaska, which are heavily reliant on summer tourism.

He said the state has not ruled out suing the federal government such as Florida over the matter.

About 40% of those eligible for a vaccine in Alaska who are 16 years or older are fully vaccinated, according to the state health department, and health officials have been looking for new ways to encourage more people to get vaccinated.

Alaska was the first state to lift restrictions on getting a COVID-19 vaccine when it opened eligibility to anyone 16 and older who lived or worked in the state last month.

Heidi Hedberg, director of public health at the state health department, said vaccines are plentiful. She said the airport program will offer the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines in two doses.

According to Hedberg, officials from other states are hearing that “there is a lot of vaccine available.” If travelers aren’t in Alaska by the time their second dose, they can report to a clinic or their provider on their return home, she said. You’d need to make sure that if your first dose was at Pfizer, for example, your second dose is also a Pfizer shot, Hedberg said.

The state plans to offer vaccines at airports in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and Ketchikan with clinics outside of the security area, she said. The details released on Friday differed from a call by the department in March that included an interest in using a vaccine with a dose based on availability.

Hedberg said officials would do a “soft rollout” at Anchorage Airport for five days between 5:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. in late April to handle the logistics. The state will use an existing mobile clinic contractor for the trial run, and that would be for Alaskans traveling in or through the airport, she said.

As of June 1, vaccinations would continue to open to anyone going through the vaccinations, she said.

State health officials have also encouraged travelers to test for COVID-19, although the state no longer requires it.

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