Update on federal COVID-19 vaccine allocation; Alaska prepares for distribution

by DHSS Staff

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) and Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) are continuing to prepare for COVID-19 vaccine distribution throughout the state, with the first shipments of vaccine expected to arrive in Alaska within the next two weeks. The Alaska COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force is working with federal, state, Tribal and military partners to plan for Alaska’s vaccination needs.

Timeline: Vaccine Authorizations and Approvals

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is scheduled to meet on Dec. 10 (Pfizer) and Dec. 17 (Moderna) to publicly discuss the review of the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) applications for these two COVID-19 vaccines. An EUA allows the FDA to make a product available during a declared state of emergency under an expedited review process.

First Vaccine Arrival

The first shipments of COVID-19 vaccines are expected to arrive in Alaska within the next two weeks. If the FDA authorizes a vaccine, the Alaska COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force will begin distributing the vaccine to Phase 1A COVID-19 vaccine providers in December and January.

Phase 1A is the first group eligible to receive the vaccine and according to national guidelines will include health care personnel and long-term care facility residents and staff. Regular shipments of vaccines are expected to continue throughout 2021. Distributing vaccines across Alaska is a large, coordinated effort and the timeline will change based on input from state, Tribal, federal, military and community partners.

According to current federal government estimates, Alaska’s initial allocations of vaccines could include:

• Pfizer: 35,100 doses

• Moderna: 17,900 doses

These vaccine doses will be distributed statewide among public, private and Tribal health systems. Alaska is receiving its state allocation and additional vaccine through the Indian Health Service.

The federal government has allocated 11,700 doses of the initial Pfizer shipment for the Alaska Tribal Health System. Distribution methodology will be determined by the Alaska Tribal Health Caucus.

Alaska’s distribution process will not include military service members, who will be vaccinated separately through a federal allocation. DHSS will provide information about when that vaccine can be expected as soon as it becomes available.

Initial Allocation Recommendations

On Dec. 1, the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice (ACIP) released recommendations for groups to be vaccinated in the initial phase of the COVID-19 vaccination program. The first phase of vaccination, referred to as Phase 1A by planners, will focus on health care personnel serving patients with either confirmed or suspected COVID-19, along with staff and residents of long-term care facilities.

On Dec. 3, the Alaska COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Committee met to review ACIP recommendations. The committee unanimously determined a portion of the groups to be included in Phase 1A: hospital-based front-line health care workers at highest risk for COVID-19 infection; long-term care facility residents and staff; EMS and fire personnel providing medical services; Community Health Aides/Practitioners; and individuals who are required to perform vaccinations.

Alaska’s committee plans to meet again Dec. 10 to identify additional groups that would be incorporated in Phase 1A.

Provider Enrollment

Providers who have fully enrolled in the COVID-19 Vaccine Program will be eligible to receive a portion of the first shipment. As of Dec. 4, 265 health care providers are fully enrolled. Clinics, pharmacies and hospitals are encouraged to enroll to be included in future distribution planning. The Alaska COVID Vaccine Task Force communicates regularly with enrolled providers to provide updates and technical assistance. For assistance with provider enrollment or to connect with a technical assistance advisor, email [email protected].

Additional information about the COVID-19 vaccine and Alaska’s distribution plan may be found at covidvax.alaska.gov.