Residents arrive for a COVID-19 vaccine at the Sitka firehall. Alaska is leading the nation in per-capita vaccines, with 52-percent of residents over 65 having had at least the first of two shots. (KCAW photo/Berett Wilber)

The State of Alaska has opened a new tier of residents eligible for vaccinations, slightly ahead of schedule.

50-year olds and up can now join the 116,000 others in the state who have already gotten an initial shot.

At a press conference on Thursday (2-11-21) Tessa Walker Linderman, who co-leads Alaska’s Vaccine Task Force, said that canvassing efforts to reach the state’s seniors appear to have been successful, and there were appointments opening up earlier than expected.

“We were seeing that new appointments were not filling up as quickly,” said Linderman. “And as more vaccine was coming into the state, we felt that it was time to move on. Also, we looked at quite a bit of data to make that decision, and hearing a lot from the communities that they had gone door-to-door and called everyone in the phone book, and could not find any more seniors to get vaccinated. And so opening up a new tier gives flexibility to communities that were really ready to move on.”

The state’s designation for the new group is “Phase 1b, Tier 2.” The state wants 50-year olds to meet certain criteria for “high risk,” but the medical criteria are broad, as are all the non-medical criteria for Tier 2, such as essential worker. Chances are most 50-year olds could fall into an eligible category. And older residents who were eligible in an previous tier, who never got around to getting vaccinated, are also welcome to sign up. 

Phase 1b, Tier 2 Vaccine Eligibilty:

The next state vaccine clinic in Sitka is at the firehall on February 17, conducted by White’s and Harry Race Pharmacies. You can schedule an appointment through the state’s PrepMod website. You can also find information online at the KCAW Covid Information Hub.

Additionally, SEARHC is now offering vaccinations — supplied through the federal government — to anyone age 16 and over. Here’s where you can register for an appointment with SEARHC.