Alaska Offers Free Vaccinations to Tourists
International Business News Writer
Alaska’s Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced this month that starting on June 1st the state will provide tourists with vaccines at four of their major airports. Any tourist (16 and older) that travels to Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, or Ketchikan airports will be able to receive their first dose of either the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine for free. Alaska officials recognize that some may not stay in the state long enough in time for their second dose, but the state will offer it to them if they do. This plan is part of Alaska’s effort to boost its tourism industry which was hit hard due to the pandemic.
Alaska was the first state to open eligibility to all residents and workers back on March 9th. According to Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services Coronavirus Response Hub, nearly 50% of Alaskans 16 and older have received at least one dose, and 43.5% are fully vaccinated as of April 29th.
The state is strongly reliant on tourism—with one in 10 jobs being part of the tourism industry. Alaska’s tourism industry is also important in that it contributes greatly to many state expenditures. This industry is heavily fueled by cruise ships, with a majority of tourists arriving in Alaska in them more than in any other way. Just like last year, this summer is not sounding great for Alaska’s tourism industry either. With Canada’s ban on cruise ship travel until early 2022 and a controversial American law—Alaskans are pessimistic about this year’s tourism rates. In 2019, more than 1.33 million cruise ships entered Alaska’s borders. Last year, the state’s main cruise ship hub, Southeast Alaska, saw only 48.
While many see tourist vaccinations as a great way to bring tourism back to Alaska, others see it as a waste of extra doses. According to Dr. Larry Brilliant, an epidemiologist, “Given the scarcity of vaccine in the world, every dose should be given in a way that is most effective at stopping this pandemic.” Dr. Brilliant believes that states struggling the most with COVID-19 cases should receive more vaccines, as they are in dire need of controlling surges. This past Saturday, Alaska began its five-day vaccination clinic in Anchorage airport to test run the logistics for its upcoming tourist vaccination plan. This clinic is only available to Alaskan residents and workers for now, but it will allow officials to figure out how to vaccinate people most efficiently in airports.
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