Alaska on Tuesday became the first state in the nation to offer a COVID-19 vaccination to any person 16 or older, a landmark move in the nation’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) said Tuesday the move would help the state and its businesses “thrive” and allow Alaskans “to put this behind us as quickly as possible,” the Anchorage Daily News reported.
“This historic step is yet another nationwide first for Alaska, but it should come as no surprise. Since day one, your response to the pandemic has been hands-down the best in the nation,” Dunleavy said in a statement. “I couldn’t be prouder of Alaska’s response. From being the first state to offer widespread testing, to maintaining one of the lowest mortality rates in the country, to rolling out vaccinations to every willing Alaskan, we got here by working together.”
The Pfizer vaccine is the only shot approved for 16- and 17-year-olds. The other two vaccines authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration — made by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — are available only to those 18 and older.
COVID-19 vaccines are not yet approved for children under the age of 16, although Pfizer and Moderna have enrolled children as young as 12 in clinical trials to determine the efficacy of the treatments. It will likely be months before the drug companies have any information about how well the vaccines protect kids from the virus (although children are less likely to have severe cases of COVID-19).
Alaska has the highest rate of vaccination in the country and has fully inoculated around 16% of its population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dunleavy added that in some parts of Alaska, more than 90% of seniors — among the most vulnerable to COVID-19 — had been vaccinated.
More than 61 million people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. The New York Times notes the pace of vaccination has sped up in many parts of the country, and the nation as a whole is now vaccinating about 2.15 million people a day.
Adam Crum, the commissioner of the state’s Department of Health and Social Services, said Tuesday that it was a “great day for Alaska.”
“I hope today’s announcement clears it up for you: Simply put, you are eligible to get the vaccine,” he said in a statement.
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