ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Health officials in Anchorage said appointments for residents to receive their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine have filled up in a matter of hours this week, leading to frustration for people still trying to sign up as vaccination clinics are planned throughout the weekend and early next week.
Anchorage Health Department Director Heather Harris said all 1,800 available time slots were reserved by residents within a four-hour period on Thursday, KTUU-TV reported. Clinics are not accepting walk-ins.
Harris said Anchorage is expecting about 14,600 doses this month, but that’s far fewer than the nearly 33,000 residents who are 65 and older and are now able to receive the vaccine.
The state last month received more than 60,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer and Moderna and expects about 53,000 additional doses this month. Health care workers were the first to be inoculated.
The vaccinations came as the Anchorage School District announced schools will reopen on Jan. 19 for elementary students in pre-K through second grade and high-needs, special education students through the sixth grade.
Some teachers in Anchorage have asked the district to delay a return reopening schools until they are eligible for the coronavirus vaccine. The state’s tiered plan for vaccinating essential workers places teachers 50 and older in tier 2, teachers under 50 with two or more high-risk health conditions in tier 3 and all other educators in tier 4.
Jennifer Patronas, the district’s health care services director, said all students and staff who are returning to in-person school should get tested next week, even if they are not symptomatic. Students and staff can go to any established municipal testing site. There will also be free public pop-up testing in parking lots at 11 different schools on a scheduled basis, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
Anchorage Health Department Dr. Janet Johnston said with students returning, it is important the community continues to take efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“What we’ve found nationally is that the infection rate in schools tends to mimic what’s in the community,” she said. “So my main concern is actually across the community that people continue to be vigilant with the preventative measures that we’ve been talking about for months now.”
For most people, the new 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.