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Confusion About Vaccine Sign-up for 65+ seniors

Foundation Health Partners

After a weekend of confusion surrounding senior citizens’ access to the COVID-19 vaccine, a lot of people signed up for appointments who should not have. Health officials are asking younger adults who are not supposed to be in the next group to cancel their appointments, but seniors can keep vaccination appointments they have made.

The state opened an online appointment portal on Wednesday, Dec. 30, for medical personnel to finish lining up to get vaccinated. Then the next day, right before the New Year holiday, the Vaccine Allocation Committee announced the following group would include seniors over 65.

The website wasn’t supposed to allow that group to use the portal yet, but it did not screen them out either. Over the weekend, friends were sending each other the link to encouraging each other to sign up.

“The only thing that moves faster than this virus is social media. And we did see a lot of social media traffic over this weekend.”

Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink told reporters Monday, that health officials scrambled to check with medical providers to make sure that eligible doctors and medical staffers were getting their chance first.

“A lot were able to schedule in that last time, and so we’re like, OK, we are ready to go ahead and move up. There are still people in phase 1A that we need to pick up, and will continue to outreach to them and make sure they are getting vaccinated as we move forward.”

So, if you are over 65 and made an appointment to get vaccinated, go ahead and keep the appointment. But if you are not in the next group, health officials are asking if you could wait your turn.

“We really do believe Alaskans will do the right thing.”

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 says the website has been updated so users can step through some questions first.

Linderman: We are really asking Alaskans to just take a minute before you make your appointment, read through the eligibility, answer those questions in your mind, can you honestly say that you fit within this tear and are able to make an appointment?”

It would help to understand the tier system. You’ve been hearing a lot about Phase 1A, Phase 1B, Phase 1C. Each of those phases has priority groups in it like Phase 1A has the medical people, Phase 1B has front-line essential workers. But in each of those Phases are Tiers. Phase 1A had Tiers 1, 2, and 3. We are just finishing up Tier 3 this week. Then we can start Phase 1B.

Zink: “We broke up phase 1B into a series of 4 tiers and the first tier of that is just, simply, people greater than 65.”

If you are confused, this is all explained on the website, where you can see a chart that explains that Tier 2 is front-line essential workers older than 50, domestic violence and homeless shelters, and jails. Tier 3 is everybody older than 55, and folks in underserved communities. Tier 4 is more essential workers.

Those four tiers in Phase 1B are likely to be vaccinated before March. Then of course there is Phase 1C. But in this fast-moving rollout, the Allocation Committee hasn’t nailed down who is in that Phase.

A public comment session for Phase 1C will be next Monday, January 11.

Web: More information about the meeting, and how to provide comment, is available at the Alaska Vaccine Allocation Advisory Committee webpage.