Tips on getting your COVID shot in Alaska
March 1, 2021 | View PDF
I got vaccinated at the Alaska Airlines Center, a large sports stadium on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus. I said to Christy, my wife, “Now I know what salmon on a cannery conveyer belt feel like.” OK, not a perfect analogy because the salmon is being disassembled while I was just getting a COVID-19 shot. Nevertheless, the whole process was tightly organized and moved right along at a brisk pace. In fact, it lived up quite well to the (possibly informal) Alaska COVID Taskforce motto, “Shots in arms – fast and fair.” Here’s the latest on how to get your vaccination.
If you have a computer or similar device, go to your favorite search engine and type in “COVID-19 Vaccine Status Update.” You will be magically transported via the internet to the motherlode of all Alaska COVID vaccination sites. (If you do not have access to a computer and the internet, I’ll note below some alternative places you can call.)
Are you eligible?
The first stop on the website is “Step 1: Find out if you are eligible now.” It is very important to do this step because eligibility criteria change every few weeks. In addition, some of the eligibility criteria are spelled out in detail, and you need to review that to make sure you fit, or where you fit in later. So, as of this writing (mid-February), an overview of those who are eligible to get vaccinated right now includes:
Age 65 and above
Age 50 years and above with a high-risk medical condition
Age 50 years and above working as an essential worker within 6 feet of others
PreK–12 and child care education staff
Most healthcare workers
People living or working in congregate settings
Long-term care residents and staff
Vaccines managed by the Alaska Tribal Health System, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Department of Defense may have different eligibility criteria. If you are a member of any of these organizations, contact them directly regarding eligibility and appointments.
Make an appointment
Next stop on the website, “Step 2: Schedule your appointment.” Click on the link, “Find a COVID-19 provider,” which takes you to a new web page of the same name. This is where you get into the nitty-gritty of your appointment search. For starters, you can sign up for major updates about vaccine availability sent directly to your email. In addition, you are given a couple of options to choose a provider in your community. There is a link to a map of Alaska with all COVID-19 providers in the state indicated on the map. There is a separate link to a list of COVID-19 vaccine providers listed by community.
Finally, at the very bottom of the web page is a list of currently available appointments across the state. The software which produces this list is called PrepMod. It is used by some, but not all, vaccine providers for finding and scheduling COVID vaccine appointments. Make sure to click on the little blue “Refresh” button. Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge are not supported, so use Chrome, Firefox or Safari for a better experience.
Here are a couple of tips that may make the vaccine hunt a little more successful:
1) Generally, the biggest new shipment of vaccine comes to Alaska near the beginning of every month, so the best time to search for appointments is the first week or so of every month. But don’t give up. New providers with vaccine to distribute appear all month long.
2) There is a separate federal program that distributes vaccines to drug stores across the state on a weekly basis, so they may also be making appointments throughout each month.
3) Some private health providers, possibly your regular doctor, may not appear on some lists, so give them a call.
Don’t want to mess around with computers? Well, there’s good news for you. Call the COVID helpline at 907-646-3322 for assistance. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays, and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekends. If you are an email kind of person, you can get your vaccine questions answered at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A final word about safety. According to the Jan. 12 issue of the New York Times, “About nine million people in the United States have received at least one shot of either the Pfizer or Moderna coronavirus vaccine, the two authorized in the United States. So far, serious problems reported were 29 cases of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction. None were reported as fatal.” On the other hand, as of mid-February, nearly 475,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. Most would still be alive had they received a vaccination. So, remember the Alaska motto: “Shots in arms – fast and fair,” and safe.