ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska health officials have asked people who prematurely signed up for vaccine appointments to cancel them.
About 500 people in Anchorage who registered by Saturday to receive vaccines at the city’s mass vaccination site in the Alaska Airlines Center were ineligible because of their age or occupation, Anchorage Daily News reported Saturday.
State officials said they are primarily focused on vaccinating older adults over the next month.
More than 1,600 vaccine appointment slots were still available Saturday.
Under Alaska’s tiered vaccination distribution system, those who are eligible for February include long-term care staff and residents, frontline health care workers and residents ages 65 and older.
“Just because the system allows people to register, it does not necessarily mean that an individual is eligible,” Anchorage Health Department Director Heather Harris said.
Those who are ineligible for vaccinations were asked to cancel their appointments or verify their eligibility in an email that was scheduled to be sent. Without verification, the appointments will be canceled Monday, Harris said.
The city had similar issues in January and called people who were deemed ineligible to explain or verify their status, Harris said.
“What I was really hearing from people when those phone calls were being made was really about confusion or uncertainty,” Harris said.
Harris said she has not seen an intentional push to circumvent the process. She characterized it as a lack of understanding on whether someone is eligible for vaccination.
Heidi Hedberg, director of the Alaska Division of Public Health, asked younger Alaska residents to help neighbors and family members with registration, acknowledging the process may be challenging for some.
“We are really focusing on those that are most impacted by this virus and we know that those 65 and older are most impacted by this virus,” Hedberg said Saturday.
“Our time is coming. And as soon as we can get those seniors vaccinated — or the opportunity to be vaccinated — then we can move on to the following tiers,” Hedberg said.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.