Coronavirus

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Teens Over The Age Of 16 Can Now Get COVID-19 Vaccines In Alaska

While Alaska is the first state to expand vaccine eligibility to include teens, more are expected to follow suit soon.

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced Tuesday the state was dropping all vaccine eligibility requirements, effectively opening the door for Alaska teens over 16 to obtain COVID-19 vaccines. The policy change makes Alaska the first state in the country to expand access to the vaccines to teenagers although experts say more states could follow suit soon.

Starting Tuesday, any teen who lives or works in Alaska and is 16 years old or older can make an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Currently, only the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine is available to people aged 16 and older while the Moderna vaccine and the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine are available to individuals aged 18 and older.

Dunleavy called the state’s expansion of vaccine access “a historic step” that ultimately came as no surprise given how residents have responded to the ongoing pandemic. “I couldn’t be prouder of Alaska’s response,” he said. “From being the first state to offer widespread testing, to maintaining one of the lowest mortality rates in the country, to rolling out vaccinations to every willing Alaskan, we got here by working together.”

According to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, more than 290,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered across the state, with many regions nearing or exceeding a 90% vaccination rate for seniors. State officials hope expanding vaccine access to all eligible individuals, including teenagers, will give Alaska’s economy a much-needed boost.

“A healthy community means a healthy economy,” Dunleavy said Tuesday. “With widespread vaccinations available to all Alaskans who live or work here, we will no doubt see our economy grow and our businesses thrive.”

But Alaska may not be the only state distributing COVID vaccines to teens for long. Already the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has said teens age 16 and older who work in specific essential sectors such as grocery stores can be vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — although ABC News reported some sites in the state have been turning away teens under the age of 18 so as not to “confuse” those administering vaccines. And the nation’s top infections disease expert has said he expects most high school students will be able to receive a COVID vaccine by the fall.

“We project that high school students will very likely be able to be vaccinated by the fall term — maybe not the very first day, but certainly in the early part of the fall for that fall educational term,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told CBS’ Face the Nation over the weekend.

Fauci also projected elementary school-aged children would likely be able to receive COVID vaccinations in early 2022, provided studies currently underway showed the vaccines were safe and immunogenic for them. “They likely will be able to get vaccinated by the very first quarter of 2022,” Fauci said of younger children.

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here.