The newest tier of eligible Alaskans puts increased demand on the state’s limited vaccine supply

Published: Feb. 12, 2021 at 10:21 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The parking lot of the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage has been full lately as more Alaskans receive their COVID-19 vaccinations. The newest tier of eligible recipients is creating a renewed demand for appointments, statewide. In some places, the wait for an opening has already stretched past the end of the month.

As of Thursday evening, the Department of Health and Social Services webpage currently shows that the earliest available appointments in Anchorage are for March 11, but residents are being directed to monitor the site regularly for last-minute cancellations or new openings.

“Vaccine availability remains low, and we are just continuing to have to allocate the scarce resource as effectively possible,” Anchorage Health Department Director Heather Harris said. “We recognize that now that more people are eligible and there are more people that are not able to access appointments right away, so we are just continuing to ask the community to be ready, and be patient.”

According to Tessa Walker Linderman, who leads Alaska’s COVID-19 vaccine task force, the limited supply of vaccines is factoring directly into decisions over who will be included in the newest eligibility tiers. Tier 2 of phase 1b accounts for anyone over 50 years old who is considered high risk or falls under the state’s frontline essential worker designations.

“We couldn’t open it up to all frontline workers, that’s why we had to put in that age limit,” Linderman said. “That synergistic effect of being a front line worker and older means you have two factors putting you at risk.”

Many of those who got their first dose on Thursday morning booked and held their appointments weeks in advance. Anchorage resident Peyton Downing told Alaska’s News Source that because of the age restrictions she had been unable to get the vaccine until now, even with her medical issues.

“I’ve been in and out of hospitals since 2009. Heart surgeries, knee surgery, a recent gallbladder surgery ... and I was very concerned but I couldn’t get the regular appointment because I wasn’t 65,” she said. “Being 63, why should I be cut out when I am in the hospital all the time?”

You can check out the most up to date information on appointment availabilities in Alaska HERE.

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