Alaska became the first state to drop eligibility requirements for COVID-19 vaccines and allow anyone 16 years of age or older who lives or works in the state to be vaccinated, the governor said on Tuesday. Mike Dunleavy.

The governor made the announcement after his own battle with COVID-19, which he described as an inconvenience and underscored his own desire to be vaccinated. He said he did not get seriously ill but did not want to “be locked in the house again”, impact his family or possibly spread the virus to others.

He described expanding vaccine eligibility in Alaska as a ” game changer,” especially with the summer tourist season looming and as the state seeks to rebuild its tattered pandemic economy.

He said he respects those who do not want to be vaccinated and is keen to pass his personal experience on to those considering vaccination. “I would ask you to give some consideration,” said the Republican.

Chief medical officer Dr Anne Zink said officials see open appointments for vaccines and want to act to allow as many people who want a vaccine to get one. More appointments will be added as the vaccine moves around the state and additional doses arrive, she said.

“It sounds like a gigantic step in many ways to get to the point where we can offer protection to anyone in the state who wants it,” Zink said at a press conference with Dunleavy.

Alaska has led states in the percentage of its population to have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker.

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Last week, the state significantly expanded eligibility to include people aged 55 to 64 and those 16 and older who are classified as essential workers, at risk, or potentially at high risk for serious illness from Covid -19 or who live in multigenerational households or communities without water. or sewer systems.

Groups in previous levels included healthcare workers, those 65 and over, and teachers.

Two approved vaccines require two doses. A third, requiring a single hit, is being deployed.

The state has reported approximately 57,300 resident cases of COVID-19 and 301 related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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