ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The first shipment of a COVID-19 vaccine could arrive in Alaska within a few weeks, state health officials said.
Early batches of vaccine will be prioritized for essential workers in health care, assisted living and emergency medical settings, The Anchorage Daily News reported Monday.
Vaccines initially will be issued in limited quantities and likely will not be available to the general public until March or April.
The state continues to work on plans to distribute supplies after the vaccines become broadly available.
The mid-December timeline for arrival in Alaska was based on announcements by drug companies working to produce coronavirus vaccines.
Pfizer Inc. said earlier this month that test results showed its vaccine is 95% effective and protects older people most at risk of dying. Moderna Inc. said this month that preliminary data from an ongoing study showed its vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective.
AstraZeneca PLC on Monday reported results from ongoing studies of a vaccine under development with Oxford University, saying the drug was up to 90% effective.
The high efficacy rates of the vaccines is “such a triumph,” said Joe McLaughlin, an Alaska state epidemiologist. For comparison, influenza vaccine effectiveness is typically between 40% and 60%, he said.
Alaska has not definitively settled a timetable, but the distribution will be done in phases with front line health care workers prioritized, said Tessa Walker Linderman, co-lead of the Alaska COVID Vaccine Task Force.
The soonest the Pfizer vaccine could be shipped is Dec. 10, with Moderna’s vaccine likely being shipped about a week later, said Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer.
After the first round of people get the vaccine, the next phase could include high-risk or critical-infrastructure workers.
Pregnant women and children were not included in any of the drug trials and will need to wait longer for access.
The state does not know how much vaccine will be delivered and officials are planning for three different scenarios, including batches of less than 5,000 doses and groups of around 10,000 and 20,000 doses, Zink 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.