Amid COVID-19 Vaccine Confusion, Health Officials Clarify Most Alaska Seniors Still Unable to Receive Vaccines

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The confusion surrounding Alaska’s COVID-19 vaccine launch has led some Alaskans to try to schedule vaccination appointments before they are eligible to receive the vaccine, state health officials said Saturday.

Tessa Walker Linderman, who helps lead the state’s vaccination effort, and Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, said in an interview that they had heard of cases of Alaska seniors attempting to make appointments over the weekend. through the state website, even though they are not yet eligible.

Although Alaskans 65 and older the next group Eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, most will have to wait at least a few weeks to sign up for an appointment, the two state health officials clarified.

“There has definitely been a lot of miscommunication on that specific topic with a lot of email chains targeting a lot of seniors that we are not a part of,” Zink said. “We are trying to help clarify that.”

On Thursday, the state announced the lineup for the upcoming vaccination rounds (Phase 1B), with adults 65 and older at the top of the list, followed by certain essential workers with public-facing jobs along with those living in congregated settings such as prisons and shelters.

But that announcement came weeks before the actual vaccines were produced.

The fact is, right now, the state is in the process of scheduling appointments for healthcare workers in “Phase 1A level three,” a large group made up of about 40,000 people who will likely take at least the rest of the month to vaccinate. . .

“I think it was perhaps an unfortunate moment that we implemented the actual vaccination of level three (Phase 1A) at the same time as we announced the subsequent levels of Phase 1B, so I think that could be part of the confusion,” said Walker Linderman .

She thinks people who heard they were eligible in Phase 1B probably went on to the state website and saw that appointments were being scheduled.

“And even though it says pretty clearly on our website that this is only for healthcare workers in Phase 1A, people may not have seen it, and they just went and made an appointment,” he said.

Part of this is a website problem – once you click the link to share which allows you to find a provider to schedule an appointment, there is no mention of eligibility and limits on who can schedule an appointment.

Walker Linderman said he heard from many clinics in recent days that they have been following up in response to appointments made to make sure those who sign up online are compliant healthcare workers. all criteria for level three of Phase 1A.

“We’re working on our website to clarify that, and I know our (vaccine distributors) are, too,” he said.

In addition to the complicated messages, some regions of the state have already been able to begin vaccinating their elderly with doses of vaccine that were separate from the state allocation.

This is because the Indian Health Service, the Department of Transportation and Veterans Affairs do not have to adhere strictly to the state phases and levels in their vaccine allocations.

However, as a general rule of thumb, non-tribal Alaska seniors who do not live in a long-term care facility will need to wait to make an appointment.

“It will be the same link – going to our website will continue to be an option to schedule that appointment,” said Walker Linderman. “But there may also be additional options.”

Alaskans may go to their regular healthcare providers or a community center, he said. The plan for Phase 1B implementation is still being developed, and the best way to stay current is to keep checking the state’s vaccine website at covidvax.alaska.gov.

“We urge Alaskans to really pay attention to where we are and what level is next,” Zink said.

But he said seniors and others don’t have to worry about missing the chance to get vaccinated, even if they don’t check the state’s website for updates every day.

“We will continue to complete those other levels even as we progress,” he said. “So even if we’ve gone to level two, if someone older decides they want to get vaccinated, they can get vaccinated whenever they want.

Phase 1A, level one (available from December 15):

• Long-term care facility staff members

• Residents of long-term care facilities

• Front-line healthcare workers in hospitals and hospital staff who are frequently exposed to COVID-19 patients, particularly those who perform the highest-risk procedures or spend long periods of time at the bedside and whose absence of work would compromise the hospital’s capacity. to keep running.

Phase IA, level two (available from December 15)

• Community health aides / practitioners

• Healthcare workers testing vaccines on populations identified in Phase 1A

Phase 1A, level three (available to schedule appointments December 30, vaccine clinics available January 4)

• Workers in health care settings at increased risk for COVID-19, who are essential to the health care infrastructure and who regularly provide health care services that cannot be postponed or delivered remotely.

They must meet the following criteria:

1. Have direct contact with the patient or have direct contact with infectious materials of patients; and,

2. Providing essential services in a healthcare setting that cannot be delivered remotely or performed via teleworking; and,

3. Provide a service in a health care setting that cannot be postponed without a detrimental impact on the patient’s short- or long-term health outcomes.

Phase 1B, level one (probably available late January, TBA vaccine clinics)

Phase 1B, level two (likely available late February, vaccine clinics to be confirmed)

• Essential frontline * workers who are 50 or older

• People who live or work in other congregational settings not covered in Phase 1A

Phase 1B, level three (vaccination period to be confirmed)

• People from 55 to 64 years old

• All people over the age of 16 living in “underserved communities”

• Essential frontline * workers ages 16-50 with two or more high-risk health conditions

Phase 1B, level four (vaccination period to be confirmed)

• People age 50 and older with two or more high-risk health conditions

• Essential frontline workers * 16-50 years not covered in levels one through three

* The state defines essential frontline workers as “people who work in sectors essential to the functioning of society and have a substantially increased risk of exposure to the virus because their work-related duties must be performed on-site and involve being in proximity (within six feet) of the public or co-workers ”.

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