In this December 2020 photo, Bartlett Regional Hospital pharmacy personnel take delivery of the first shipment of the coronavirus vaccine. The state announced Tuesday it was making the vaccine available to all Alaskans starting March 10. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)

In this December 2020 photo, Bartlett Regional Hospital pharmacy personnel take delivery of the first shipment of the coronavirus vaccine. The state announced Tuesday it was making the vaccine available to all Alaskans starting March 10. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)

Breaking: Vaccine soon available to all Alaskans

Starting Wednesday all Alaskans 16 and older are eligible

COVID-19 vaccinations will be available to all Alaskans starting Wednesday, March 10, Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s office announced late Tuesday afternoon.

“We’re going to put this behind us as quickly as possible,” Dunleavy said Tuesday evening at a news conference from the Governor’s Mansion.

Alaska will be the first state in the nation to open fully vaccine eligibility, Dunleavy said.

The governor urged all Alaskans who wanted a vaccine to receive one but said he respected the decision of those who chose not to. For undecided Alaskans, Dunleavy said he would personally recommend it based on his recent experience contracting the coronavirus. The governor was diagnosed with COVID-19 last month and said Tuesday while he did not become significantly ill, he intends to receive the vaccine for several reasons, including not to inconvenience himself and others.

The Pfizer vaccine is available to people who are 16 and older, while the Johnson & Johnson and the Moderna vaccines are available to people 18 and older, the governor’s office said in a news release. All three authorized vaccines have shown to be effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death caused by COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

[Watch: Dunleavy news conference on COVID-19]

According to the governor’s office, regions including Kodiak Island, the Petersburg Borough and the Kusilvak Census Area are nearing or exceeding 90% vaccination rates among seniors. In the Nome Census Area, the administration says over 60% of residents age 16 and over have received at least one shot and roughly 291,000 doses have been administered statewide.

“Soon this virus will be a preventable disease,” said Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer.

Zink emphasized that the vaccines are safe and efficacious and have been widely distributed with few major side effects. Having large numbers of Alaskans vaccinated is the best way to foster herd immunity to COVID-19 and the best protection from emerging variants of the virus, she said.

The state is providing information for Alaskans with concerns about vaccines, Zink said, and she encouraged people to ask their personal health care providers about their concerns. More information can be found online at covidvax.alaska.gov or by calling 646-3322 for more information and to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccination.

“This has been a long pandemic and this is our opportunity,” Zink said.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

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