Nearly half of Alaska residents 16 and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while more than half have received at least one dose, state public health officials said.
Data from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services shows that 46.9 percent of state residents had received both doses while 52.6 percent had received at least one dose, the Peninsula Clarion reported Saturday.
These rates were above the national average, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its data show that 47 percent of Americans of any age have had at least a first dose, and 37 percent are fully vaccinated.
However the rate among people 18 or older is catching up, with 56.1 percent of American adults having had at least a first dose (the CDC doesn’t break its data down to show the 16-and-up age group).
New Hampshire has raced even further ahead of the national average, with nearly 56 percent of its population of residents aged 16 or older have had at least a first dose, and nearly 43 percent fully vaccinated.
More than half of Alaska residents aged 16 or older had had a first dose of Covid vaccines by April 24. By Friday, about 53% were vaccinated (the state’s data had not yet updated for Monday at the time of publication)
Nearly 300,000 of the state’s nearly 600,000 residents aged 16 or older have had at least a first dose of COVID-19 vaccines, and about 47% of the age group is fully vaccinated
Vaccination rates are as high as 76% having had at least one dose in central Alaska (dark green)
Alaska reached its vaccination milestones days after it opened up vaccination appointments to children 12 and up following the CDC’s approval of Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVD-19 vaccine for that age group.
Anchorage revoked its mask mandate on Friday ahead of its planned expiration date, the same day Juneau’s mask order was eased to allow fully vaccinated people to go in indoor public areas or at crowded outdoor events without a mask.
There were 1,316 new COVID-19 cases in Alaska in the two weeks before Sunday, according to the CDC.
Alaska’s average daily case counts are now trending down significantly statewide, though a few regions in the state are still in the highest alert category based on their current per capita rate of infection, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
Despite being one of the most remote states in the union, Alaska has managed to stay at the front of the pack for vaccinating its residents since rollout began.
Health officials there have credited the additional doses allocated to the state’s native tribes by the federal government – distributions made separately and in addition to the state’s orders – the involvement of elders in those tribes, and a keen memory of previous outbreaks of disease.
Tuberculosis and the Spanish flu each devastated tribal communities in the early 20th Century, and an oral history of the outbreaks has been passed down from generation to generation.
Painfully aware of how many lives could be lost in small tribes, Alaska Natives were quick to to turn to public health advisers and encourage their members to get vaccinated as quickly as possible.
While most of the U.S. was met with an unprecedented logistical challenge in order to deliver millions of doses of delicate vaccine across the country, transporting medical supplies across tundras, to remote islands and through snow and ice was old hat for Alaskans.
Snowmobiles, sleds and boats were quickly outfitted to transport shots, which have been administered everywhere from airport tarmacs to local grocery stores.
And with the direct contact with federal distributors, tribes had more flexibility in how many doses they got, when they got them and how they distributed them within their communities.
Health care workers and facilities and public health agencies quickly partnered with tribes, transport, and grocery stores to get shots in arms.
In fact, Alaska’s vaccination campaign moved so swiftly that it began giving vaccines to arriving visitors at airports last month.
Alaska is vast, but sparsely populated, and small governments have been among the most successful in the vaccine rollout.
New Hampshire, the tenth least populated state in the U.S. has had similar success story to Alaska’s, leveraging its size and a wide net of partnerships early on.
‘Because we have a small government, we’re very nimble. We created partnerships early on between the pharmacies, the firefighters, who we knew were going to volunteer, the nurses and doctors and the National Guard,’ Governor Chris Sununu told Politico.
‘You got to make sure that everyone has a shot within 10 miles of their home.
And we didn’t want to create a system where you’re waiting and you get turned away, or you have to wait hours and hours and hours.
‘The one real glitch that we had early on was we were going to use a federal scheduling system. What a disaster that was. I said, we’re building our own system. It literally takes four minutes to register.
‘You’d be shocked at how many available spots there are. If we find out there are 50 vials of vaccine that aren’t going to get used in one location, in a matter of hours, we can literally move it across the state and get those shots in arms.’
Both New Hampshire and Alaska seem to have raced ahead of the national vaccination rate by simply going their own way, relying on their communities rather than the federal government.