Iditarod removes vaccine requirement for 2023 race

Iditarod Covid-19 Vaccine Changes
Published: Oct. 24, 2022 at 11:50 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - After three years of rigorous COVID-19 precautions, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race will no longer require mushers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

A post on the organization’s website announced the change early Monday morning.

“While the Iditarod continues to recommend Covid vaccinations for our entire community, we will not be mandating vaccinations for Iditarod mushers, staff or volunteers for the 2023 race,” the post said. “With regard to testing protocols, we are evaluating needs in conjunction with medical advisors, Iditarod communities, partners and stakeholders, while concurrently accounting for the projected trajectory of Covid cases in Alaska up until the race start.”

The 2020 Iditarod began as the world was just learning about COVID-19, and teams finished the race having to adhere to different protocols than were in place when the race began. The post says that the Iditarod organizers “spent considerable time and resources on testing protocols” over the last two years.

“It’s something that we take very seriously and without the people that we’ve had — the state, Dr. Guest, and all these other people — with the input you know I’m here to put on a dog race. That is what our staff is dedicated to do, but when it gets on to this level of something dealing with community health, public health, we need to bring in the big guns,” Iditarod Race Director Mark Nordman said.

The post also mentions that the Iditarod is looking into the testing protocols.

“Our ultimate goal is to keep mushers, volunteers, and communities along the Southern Route safe, and we appreciate your understanding and patience as we sort through the appropriate testing and mitigation protocols,” the post said. “We will inform you with updates as we get closer to March 4, 2023, the start of Iditarod Fifty-One.”

In the 2022 race, the mushers were tested right before the race and at the McGrath checkpoint. The Iditarod reported zero positive cases from those tests and now the board is considering changing some of those testing measures, although nothing has yet to be officially determined.

“I think there is a few people, of course. It is always a personal choice that didn’t want to get vaccinated last year and I believe we will have them racing again,” Nordman continued. “They haven’t signed up yet but I am hearing that they will now with this decision.”

Nordman said he does not believe that the change in vaccination requirements will alter this year’s Iditarod start.