ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska health officials plan to launch a live phone service for residents trying to schedule coronavirus vaccination appointments.

The state currently provides an answering service through which Alaska residents seeking appointments can only leave messages, Alaska Public Media reported.

The hotline will become available in anticipation of a February shipment of COVID-19 vaccine from the federal government, Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration said Monday.

Tessa Walker Linderman of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services said more than 40 staff members will answer calls from people wanting to book appointments.

Many of the workers were previously tasked with tracking the contacts of people who were infected with COVID-19. A decrease in the number of new cases has allowed those employees to shift to the hotline, Walker Linderman said.

“We’ve built up a huge workforce, especially when we were seeing hundreds more cases a day than we are now,” Walker Linderman said.


Callers may still have to wait, but the system should allow personal interaction within reasonable amounts of time rather than automatically requiring residents to wait for return calls.

New appointment openings are expected to be added to the state’s vaccine website starting Thursday, officials 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.