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Health

Alaska makes vaccines available to those 16 and older, becoming first state to remove eligibility requirements – The Washington Post

About a quarter of Alaska’s residents have received at least one dose of vaccine, making the state a leader in quickly carrying out inoculations. It shares that distinction with several rural states, such as West Virginia and the Dakotas.

Alaska has also benefited from partnerships with tribal health organizations, which have received their own vaccine supply through the Indian Health Service.

Alaska’s health commissioner, Adam Crum, said any residents with “questions about vaccine eligibility and criteria” should step forward: “Simply put, you are eligible to get the vaccine.” The move was also celebrated by senior Biden administration officials handling the White House’s coronavirus response, including Andy Slavitt.

President Biden promised last week there would be enough vaccine to cover every adult by the end of May.

Products developed by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have only been authorized for people 18 and older. Those who are 16 can receive the protocol created by Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech.

Just last week, Alaska expanded access to adults 55 and older, as well as to residents of any age with a high-risk medical condition and those in jobs defined broadly as essential. That still left appointments unclaimed.

Other states have also broadened eligibility, though none has gone as far. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) said Monday adults 50 and older could start reserving appointments this week. Indiana and West Virginia have opened access to the same age group, and Michigan will do so on March 20, after first targeting people in that bracket with high-risk conditions.

Some individual counties have moved ahead of statewide criteria in expanding access. Gila County in central Arizona recently made vaccine available to the general population after finding that appointments were going unclaimed.

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