Fact Check: Dunleavy promotes outdated vaccination statistic in Alaska tourism video

State vaccination rate ranked higher nationally at the time the ad was shot
Updated: May. 18, 2021 at 4:50 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - In a new tourism ad aimed at branding Alaska as a safe place to visit this summer, Gov. Mike Dunleavy touts a claim about the state’s COVID-19 vaccination rate that is no longer accurate, as Alaska has fallen down national rankings of vaccination rates.

“Having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, our people are safe and you will be too,” Dunleavy says in the promotional video.

While Alaska at one time had the highest vaccination rate per capita in the country, it has since fallen. As of Tuesday, it was ranked 30th among states and territories in terms of doses administered per 100,000 people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s online vaccination tracker.

The tourism ad, posted online and announced by the governor’s office on Monday, is part of a $5 million national marketing campaign aimed at promoting Alaska as a COVID-safe destination, according to a release from the governor’s office.

When asked about the now outdated information in the ad on Tuesday, the governor’s staff said he was not available for an interview and sent a statement saying the ad was filmed “weeks ago.”

Deputy Press Secretary Corey Allen Young later clarified that the ad was shot on April 20. At that time, CDC data showed Alaska ranked 13th among states and territories in terms of its vaccination rate.

At that time the ad was shot, more than 40% of Alaskans age 16 and older were fully vaccinated. As of Tuesday, more than 47% of Alaskans age 16 and older are fully vaccinated, according to the state’s vaccine monitoring dashboard.

The statement sent by Young read:

“Because of the awesome work of Alaskans statewide that includes vaccinations, Governor Dunleavy shot the Alaska Tourism video weeks ago to advocate that Alaska and Alaskan businesses are open. More Alaskans are getting vaccinated, case counts are going down, the state is promoting the Sleeves Up for Summer Campaign, all of which is resulting in communities opening up for business which includes tourism.”

The campaign is funded by money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, will run six and a half weeks and includes $4 million worth of television promotion and $500,000 each of radio and digital advertisements, amounting to a total of 1,700 spots, according to the release.

Dunleavy announced the marketing effort in April, saying the $4.5 billion tourism economy is in jeopardy. He also announced free COVID-19 vaccinations for tourists starting on June 1.

As rates of vaccination do continue to rise in Alaska, daily counts of new COVID-19 cases are also on a downward trend. The statewide alert level based on the average daily case rate per 100,000 people over 14 days remains high, but is close to dropping back into the intermediate alert level, according to the state’s coronavirus response hub. The Juneau region, the Kenai Peninsula Borough and Anchorage are all back in the intermediate alert level.

Dunleavy’s office did not immediately respond to a question about whether the governor plans to re-shoot the video or correct the now outdated claim in the ad.

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