Many sectors and industry groups, including educators, are urging state officials to increase their COVID-19 vaccine eligibility even as it has become clear that Alaska’s allowance for the month is nearly exhausted .
In a hearing Monday, several educators and the president of the Anchorage Teachers Union urged the state’s vaccine allocation committee to upgrade teachers to “immediate” vaccination status before in-person learning. does not begin for K-2 classes and special education classes until sixth grade in Anchorage. School district in about a week.
Representatives of the state’s trucking and shipping industries have also asked to be bumped. Lower 48 storekeepers and truck drivers are seeing 20 to 25 percent downsizing due to the effects of the virus, Matson vice president Bal Dreyfus told the committee at the hearing, held in distance via Zoom.
“It would be a major impact on the supply chain in Alaska,” Dreyfus said.
But a supplier pleaded with the state not to add any more groups at all until more vaccines are available.
Mat-Su Health Services, a community health agency, was forced to hire temporary workers and work 60 hours a week to follow callers, some of them old people in tears because they didn’t have no internet or computer skills, program coordinator Victoria Knapp testified, calling the deployment a disaster.
“For the state to open another group soon, we will be pulling out of the program,” Knapp said.
The state’s immunization program began in mid-December with frontline hospital workers and long-term care facilities. It has expanded to include other health workers.
The deployment hit a series of public hardships after the state opened eligibility for Alaskans 65 and over several weeks ahead of schedule, following slower-than-expected interest from some healthcare workers.
Officials say they knew they didn’t have enough doses to immunize the estimated 90,000 Alaskans in the senior age group, but wanted to make sure nothing was wasted.
It could take a month and a half just to get the 65 and over group vaccinated.
The next approved group includes inmates, correctional officers and residents of homeless shelters, as well as “essential frontline workers” aged 50 and over, including teachers, emergency responders and workers. of the seafood industry.
The state’s vaccine allocation advisory committee held Monday’s hearing to seek feedback on the next level after that. The state proposes that this category include people aged 16 to 49 with high-risk health conditions, as well as any additional essential workers.
A pre-committee meeting in late December elicited more than 500 comments. The state has since received over 500 additional comments.
More than 20 people have signed up to provide live commentary on Monday afternoon, including people representing staff and volunteers at senior centers and people with developmental disabilities who do not live in homes, where the vaccine is already available.
It was also asked to prioritize electric utilities, people with type 1 diabetes and library workers, and correct the next level to include instructors, staff and student teachers of the ‘University of Alaska, as well as collective housing students and factory workers at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.
Alaska health officials say the state ranks fourth in the country for per capita vaccinations, but still has “incredibly limited” vaccine quantities.
Alaska received a total of 114,800 doses of the vaccine from the federal government for December and January: 62,400 doses manufactured by Pfizer, which require ultra-cold storage, and 52,4000 manufactured by Moderna Inc. This does not include federal military allowances. and veterans.
Almost all of those doses are already talked about – before even halfway through the month, health officials said in a briefing on Monday.
“We have more or less allocated all of our vaccine for January,” said Tessa Walker Linderman, state co-head of the Alaska Vaccine Task Force.
Basically, officials say that right now there just aren’t enough vaccines for everyone, even as they recruit more and more suppliers who want to get vaccinated.
That does not mean vaccines are no longer being given, officials say. Some are reserved for long-term care centers, and some are intended for communities that have not yet been able to obtain them due to bad weather.
Some are also intended for large-scale vaccination clinics that just haven’t happened yet. An ongoing clinic at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage ends Tuesday, while another is expected to start in Mat-Su at the Alaska State Fairgrounds. More clinics are planned for Juneau, Fairbanks and Homer.
A state scorecard showed just over 29,000 people received the first of two doses needed to get vaccinated against the virus that has killed more than 220 Alaskan residents, most of them them over 60. Officials warn that the dashboard data is lagging behind in real time and that more shots have actually been inflicted. given.
The vaccine allocation advisory committee is meeting on Tuesday and will consider comments submitted before and during Monday’s hearing before making recommendations.
State officials called for patience with a process that they said could have been much improved.
Dr Anne Zink, the state’s medical officer of health, said officials were not yet sure how much vaccine they could receive for February.
Federal officials said they could send in additional supplies at any time. President-elect Joe Biden said last week that he plans to release most of the available coronavirus vaccine doses.
But given the delicate storage requirements and other complications of vaccine delivery, Zink said she did not expect the situation to change suddenly on January 20 when Biden takes the oath.
“We just don’t have a lot of vaccines in the state,” she said, responding to requests from teachers. “I wish we had more of it and we would love to release it as soon as possible.”
For more information on vaccinations, the public can go to covidvax.alaska.gov or call 907-646-3322 and leave a message. Officials say calls should be returned within the day, though some users are reporting waits much longer than that.