Mushers, veterinarians and other staff required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for Iditarod 2022

In this March 7, 2015, file photo, musher Peter Kaiser, of Bethel, Alaska, leads his team past...
In this March 7, 2015, file photo, musher Peter Kaiser, of Bethel, Alaska, leads his team past spectators during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, in Anchorage, Alaska.
Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 10:57 AM AKDT|Updated: Sep. 23, 2021 at 6:40 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Everyone who participates in next year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race — mushers, veterinarians, pilots and more — will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Iditarod Board of Directors passed a resolution requiring vaccinations based on feedback from rural Alaska communities, according to a release from the Iditarod sent out on Thursday.

“This applies to the entire Iditarod community, mushers, staff, contractors, volunteers, pilots, veterinarians, etc.,” officials said in a statement. “This decision was made in concert with feedback from rural Alaska and is reflective of the Iditarod’s broad community health consciousness.”

In an interview later Thursday, Iditarod CEO Rob Urbach said the board of directors unanimously passed the resolution last week and shortly after held virtual town hall meetings with mushers.

“There were a few mushers who have challenged the policy,” Urbach said. “It’s a vocal minority of a handful of folks.”

Urbach believes the decision is not a political one and feels it was made in the best interest of the race after speaking with the rural communities along the trail.

Iditarod officials also announced that mushers will race on the northern route, which is typically run on even-numbered years. This is a change after the most recent race, when race officials decided to shorten the trail during the pandemic.

“It’s probably the only way we can run our traditional route, and go through the villages,” Urbach said of the vaccine policy. “Our role is to put on the best dog race in the world, and this enables us to do that.”

Iditarod officials said they are currently constructing a COVID-19 mitigation plan for the competition and will announce updates as the pandemic continues.

“The Iditarod has had to make several tough decisions in order to be extremely diligent navigating COVID-19 for both the 2020 and 2021 races,” officials stated. “Now, more than ever, we are hyper focused to ensure zero community transmission.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information from Iditarod CEO Rob Urbach.

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