ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Teachers are among the groups urging state officials to speed up their eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine after Alaska’s allocation for the month quickly depleted.
Several educators urged the state’s vaccine allocation advisory committee on Monday to move teachers into "immediate” vaccine status, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
In-person learning is scheduled to begin next week in the Anchorage School District for K-2 and special education classes through sixth grade.
The state’s vaccination program began in mid-December with frontline hospital workers and long-term care centers before expanding to include other health workers.
The next approved group includes prison inmates, corrections officers and homeless shelter residents. The group also encompasses “frontline essential workers” 50 and older including teachers, emergency responders and seafood industry workers.
The vaccine allocation committee held Monday’s video conference hearing to take comments on the next tier.
Trucking and shipping industry representatives also asked to be given a higher place in the vaccination order.
Warehousemen and truck drivers in the continental U.S. have experienced 20% to 25% workforce reductions because of the virus, Matson Inc. Vice President Branton Dreyfus told the committee.
“That would be a major impact to the supply chain in Alaska,” Dreyfus said.
Mat-Su Health Services, a community health organization, asked officials to refrain from adding more groups until additional vaccine doses are available.
Mat-Su Health has been forced to hire temporary employees as workers work 60-hour weeks to keep up with callers, program coordinator Victoria Knapp said.
The vaccination rollout stumbled after opening eligibility to Alaska residents 65 and over several weeks ahead of schedule following slower-than-expected interest from some health care workers.
Frustrated older residents said Monday they could not sign up for appointments. Officials said a month and a half could be needed to get vaccinations to the 65-and-older group.
Knapp called the vaccination rollout a disaster.
"For the state to open up another group anytime soon, we will withdraw from the program,” Knapp said.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.