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Alaska receives first COVID-19 vaccine doses

December 14, 2020 GMT

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska has begun receiving its initial doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, state officials announced Monday.

Some hospitals had received vaccine Monday, and it was expected some Alaskans would be vaccinated as early as Monday, said Tessa Walker Linderman, co-lead of Alaska’s Vaccine Task Force. She said hospitals could decide whether to publicize the doses they are receiving.

A vaccine shipment arrived Sunday night on a UPS plane, the state health department said in a statement. The state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, said Alaska’s initial allocation of 35,100 doses is expected to arrive through Wednesday. Zink called this an emotional occasion for her.

The state planned to begin transporting the vaccine Monday to healthcare facilities across Alaska. Since the initial supply is limited, the vaccine will go first to front-line healthcare workers at highest risk for infection from COVID-19, long-term care facility residents and staff, those providing emergency medical services, community health aides and those required to give vaccinations.

“The COVID-19 vaccine is going to help Alaskans put the worst behind us,” Gov. Mike Dunleavy said. “We will begin the process of finally getting the upper hand of this pandemic and getting our lives back to normal.”

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The state’s initial allocation includes 11,700 doses allocated by the Indian Health Service to Alaska tribes.

The state is working with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium to coordinate shipment of the vaccine, including to rural villages.

Because of the state’s unique geography and logistical issues, Alaska is receiving its entire initial vaccine allocation this week while other states are receiving shipments weekly, the statement said.

Since the start of the pandemic, the state has reported 40,160 known COVID-19 cases and 175 deaths.

The coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and death.