Alaska becomes first US state to offer Covid vaccine to anyone over 16

Alaska is one of the leading state in the US in its vaccine drive

<p>A snow machiner drags a pallet to smooth out snow lanes in the new dog lot which has been set up at the McGrath checkpoint to accommodate COVID-19 precautions during the Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Tuesday March 9, 2021, in Alaska</p>

A snow machiner drags a pallet to smooth out snow lanes in the new dog lot which has been set up at the McGrath checkpoint to accommodate COVID-19 precautions during the Iditarod Sled Dog Race on Tuesday March 9, 2021, in Alaska

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Alaska has become the first state in the US to open up Covid-19 vaccination for younger people, allowing anyone 16 or older to get the jab.

Governor Mike Dunleavy announced on Tuesday night that the state has dropped the eligibility requirements and the new protocol is “effective immediately” for “anyone who lives or works in Alaska”.

“This historic step is yet another nationwide first for Alaska, but it should come as no surprise. Since day one, your response to the pandemic has been hands-down the best in the nation,” Mr Dunleavy said in a statement.

According to the state government, Pfizer vaccine would available to individuals who are 16 and older and Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the Moderna vaccine would be given to people 18 and older.

“I couldn’t be prouder of Alaska’s response,” Mr Dunleavy added. “From being the first state to offer widespread testing, to maintaining one of the lowest mortality rates in the country, to rolling out vaccinations to every willing Alaskan, we got here by working together.”

Last week, Alaska expanded its vaccination drive, making the vaccines available to people above 16 with comorbidities that were at risk of severe illness from Covid-19.

Alaska has done fairly well in its vaccination programme, fully inoculating 288,000 people while exceeding 90 per cent vaccination rates among seniors in some areas, according to official data.

The state is leading in the US in the percentage of its people vaccinated with two doses of vaccine, data from US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Covid-19 vaccine tracker shows.

The remote and largest state of the US in terms of land, Alaska has managed to keep the spread of infection under control with 292 people dead – one of the lowest death rates in the US. But the virus managed to sneak into remote locations with extreme weather situation, making it difficult to provide help.

Distribution of vaccine in Alaska became a challenge for authorities with sub-zero temperatures in most of its parts. While countries scrambled to boost their infrastructure to store Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, Alaska had the opposite problem — of avoiding it from freezing.

The vaccine distribution system received a major boost as its tribal health care providers mobilised efforts in delivering the doses to remotest parts.

According to reports, vials have been airlifted, driven on water taxis through seas and even shuttled to villages on sledges.

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