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Alaska Opens Vaccines To Everyone Over 16

Alaska on Tuesday became the first state in the nation to make COVID-19 vaccinations available to anyone over the age of 16 who lives or works in the state.

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy called the vaccination expansion a "game changer." He said eligibility requirements for the vaccinations are dropped, effective immediately.

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

The Pfizer vaccine is available to people who are 16 and older, while the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines are available to people 18 and older. All three shots have shown to be effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death due to COVID-19.

Alaska's move comes as other states make steady progress to vaccinate a wider portion of vulnerable residents, front-line workers and older adults. The progress on immunizations is welcome news a year into the pandemic. More than 520,000 people have died from the virus in the United States.

As of Tuesday morning, more than 123 million vaccine doses had been distributed to states. More than 93.6 million shots had been administered, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's COVID-19 vaccine data tracker.

Dunleavy said some regions in the state, including Kodiak Island, the Petersburg Borough and the Kusilvak Census Area, are nearing or exceeding 90% vaccination rates among seniors. The Nome Census Area, with a population slightly over 10,000, has had more than 60% of residents age 16 and over receive at least one shot, he said.

Alaska has received 288,000 vaccines and has vaccinated 170,993 people, according to state data.

The state's Department of Health and Social Services reports 57,304 residents have contracted the coronavirus. Another 301 have died from COVID-19.

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