ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska residents 65 and over will be able to start receiving COVID-19 vaccinations next week, health officials said.
The Department of Health and Social Services announced that people in that age group can start scheduling appointments Wednesday on the state’s vaccine website, the Anchorage Daily News reported this week.
People were asked to choose appointments for Monday or later, officials said.
Alaska last month received more than 60,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer and Moderna and expects almost 53,000 additional doses this month. Health care workers were the first eligible to get the vaccine.
A state allocation committee determined last week that people 65 and older would make up the next phase of recipients. But state officials had said the vaccine would not be available to the more than 90,000 Alaskans in that group until late this month.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced the new timeline for seniors’ vaccinations at a presentation Monday to the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, saying people over 65 are among the groups hardest hit by the coronavirus.
Officials said they made the change after hearing about good progress vaccinating those who are now eligible: people in health care settings like home health or outpatient facilities.
Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, said she expected a town hall this week to discuss vaccines for older residents.
Numerous older people, including former state workers, reported confusion over being able to book vaccination appointments over the weekend at pharmacies and clinics using the state website before they were eligible.
An emailed scheduling link skipped the state’s official vaccine website that tells people to check their eligibility before claiming a slot.
Retired Public Employees of Alaska, the union for retired state employees, urged health officials to fix the website to ensure people could not erroneously sign up for the vaccine.
“None of our retirees wish to jump ahead of health care workers, but they were provided credible information that they were now eligible to sign up,” union President Sharon Hoffbeck wrote in an email Sunday.
The state registration form should have clearly stated eligibility information on the front page but “was instead buried two layers down” when users clicked another link, Hoffbeck said.