When Will I Get The Vaccine? Are My Folks in Phase 1B?
As the COVID-19 Vaccine rollout begins across Alaska, people are starting to ask: “when is my turn?” For the Alaska Vaccine Task Force, the answer to that changes every day, as pharmacists match vaccine doses to priority groups. For doctors and technicians, it is a happy scramble to keep up.
Dr. Tessa Walker Linderman, is the DHSS lead for the Alaska COVID-19 Vaccination Task Force. Dr. Linderman is a Nurse Consultant for the Division of Public Health. She told reporters Monday the state health department is still in the very early part of the vaccine rollout.
“We are still in Phase 1A in terms of who Alaska is vaccinating, but discussions of future phases are happening.”
Federal health officers are shipping doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines as fast as they can be manufactured and packaged. Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer says the state received about 60,000 doses of the vaccine this month, about 10 times more than expected.
“At the beginning of December, we thought we were getting, like, 6000, just over 6000 doses to start. I mean we’ve had to change plans drastically, and dramatically, on a very regular basis. We are working on these, like, super-tight time frames. So when people say like, ‘I want to know what date I am.’ We don’t know how much we’re getting in next week.“
First-come, first served appointments for the last folks in Phase 1A, essential health care workers, will be opened tomorrow (Dec. 30) on the state’s COVID-19 website, Covidvax.alaska.gov Those appointments will begin January 4.
The next big question is who will be vaccinated in Phase 1B, much later in January.
The Federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, determines the priority groups for who should get the vaccine first, but leaves it up to the states and tribes to make the allocations. That group last met on December 20.
ACIP recommends that Phase 1B includes people aged 75 and older and front-line essential workers such as emergency responders, teachers and grocery store workers.
Alaska has its own Vaccine Allocation Advisory Committee that held a workshop Monday to give an update and take public comment about the next steps.
Dr. Anne Zink says for Phase 1B, the Allocation Committee is looking at three principals: logistics, science and equity – to get the vaccine out fast, effectively and fairly.
“Across all different groups, taking consideration of their work, their ability to protect themselves, the service they provide, the morbidity and mortality they might see, age, underlying medical conditions.”
For the workshop, the Task Force received 347 written comments, and 52 people signed up to speak about who in Alaska are those essential workers. Commenters represented groups like electrical utilities, older Alaskans, water and wastewater utilities, gas and oil companies and teachers’ groups.
Here are Stacy Marz of the Alaska Court system, Lee Ryan of Ryan Air, Elizabeth Petrosik representing Domestic Violence shelters, and Brent Payne of United Catcher Boats.
“We have 39 staffed courts across the state. I would love you to consider all of our staff and judges as essential workers. For purposes of the vaccine distribution.”
“Please consider the addition of those serving in the aviation field to be included in Phase 1B of the vaccine allocation. A small group of essential front-line Alaskans who quite literally carry the responsibility of delivery of care to much of the state.”
“Providing vaccines to staff and residents of domestic violence shelters and service centers throughout Alaska will allow them to continue to support the vulnerable population in their time of crisis.”
“We are starting up our fishery in January again. You know, we are front-line workers, we are producing food for our nation’s food supply.”
ACIP estimates there are 30,000 essential workers in Alaska, 23,000 teachers and 6,100 first responders like police and firefighters. So another 60,000 doses – times two for the booster shot – would cover those groups in Phase 1B.
Alaska’s Vaccine Allocation Advisory Committee will meet later this week to better define who is in Phase 1B.