JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The state is expanding eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations in Alaska to include individuals 50 and older with high-risk medical conditions, pre-kindergarten through grade 12 teachers and childcare workers, and those 50 and older in jobs considered essential who work in close proximity to others.

The state health department announced the expansion Wednesday. It said people in those groups can start making appointments Thursday.

In late January, a state vaccine official said officials did not expect new eligibility tiers opening in February, citing a focus on vaccinating those 65 and older.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy, in a statement, said many Alaskans in that age group who wanted to receive vaccinations have, “and now it’s time to open up vaccinations to a new group of Alaskans.”

Individuals previously eligible can still get vaccinated, officials say.

Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer, said factors such as Alaska’s remaining allocation for February and estimates on how much vaccine the state might receive for March were weighed in making the decision to expand eligibility.

The new tier includes people living or working in congregate settings who weren’t previously eligible, including homeless and domestic violence shelters and those in correctional settings.