(KCAW/Berett Wilber)

The state is prepared to roll out another round of vaccinations when the FDA approves use of the Pfizer vaccine for children 12 and up. At a teleconference with the state’s top health officials on Thursday (5-6-21), Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said they would start vaccinating kids as soon as next week. 

“This vaccine is in stock, it is available in the state, and we are set and ready to vaccinate this group as soon as it is approved,” she said. We really want to get our kids vaccinated, particularly while they’re still in school, before they go to the winds this summer. This is our chance to protect them.”

Zink stressed the importance of vaccinating younger people. Statewide, there’s been an increase of infections and hospitalizations in recent weeks, mostly driven by unvaccinated patients.

“We’ve had almost double hospitalizations, and vented patients in the last week. 98 percent are unvaccinated and they tend to be a younger population,” she said. “We have a really powerful tool against this virus. But unfortunately we’re still seeing even very young people get very sick and die. We’ve had two people in their 20s in the last couple of weeks die from COVID-19.” 

Around half of unvaccinated Alaskans who responded to a recent state survey said they would probably not get the vaccine.  To push past vaccine resistance, DHSS is kicking off a campaign to boost the number of shots in arms by 25 percent in every borough this summer. In Sitka, the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) is asking everyone 12 and older to register for vaccination appointments. Harry Race Pharmacy will be able to schedule vaccinations once the FDA’s approval is official.

All children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian to receive their vaccination. You can find a link to local vaccination registration forms on our COVID Information Hub at kcaw.org.