MAT-SU — As COVID-19 cases continue to rise statewide and particularly in the Mat-Su Valley, the first 35,100 doses of the Pfizer vaccine for the coronavirus arrived in Alaska Monday and will be distributed throughout the state for the following two days. As vaccines arrived in Alaska Sunday night for distribution on Monday, Alaska now has had 40,160 total positive cases of COVID-19 to date. There were 420 new cases announced on Monday, 18 of those from the Mat-Su Valley.

“The COVID-19 vaccine is going to help Alaskans put the worst behind us,” said Governor Mike Dunleavy. “ We will begin the process of finally getting the upper hand of this pandemic and getting our lives back to normal.”

The vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech was authorized by the United States Food and Drug Administration on Friday and shipped out to 636 locations from the Pfizer plant in Michigan. Some communities in Alaska ordered their vaccination doses directly from Pfizer, and the rest will be distributed around the state. Of the 35,100 vaccine doses that arrived Sunday night, 11,700 are set aside for Alaskan tribes. According to the press release from the Department of Health and Social Services, all Alaskans who wish to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will have an opportunity to do so, eventually.

“Alaska’s Vaccine Task Force has been preparing for many months to receive these first shipments and to guarantee safe vaccine handling according to the vaccine’s unique requirements,” said Tessa Walker Linderman, co-lead of Alaska’s Vaccine Task Force. “The task force, led by DHSS and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, continues to coordinate with diverse partners across the state on logistics. We’re ready and excited to begin.”

The first doses of the vaccine will be distributed to frontline healthcare workers who are at the highest risk of infection. Others who will receive priority for vaccine administration are long term care facility and assisted living facility residents and staff, Department of Corrections inmates in infirmaries, Emergency Medical Service personnel and firefighters along with community health aides and individuals who are required to perform vaccinations.

“ANTHC appreciates the advocacy of the State to ensure Alaska is receiving all of our allocation at once,” said Andy Teuber, Chairman and President of ANTHC. “Alaska Native Medical Center and our regional partners are ready to receive our allocations as quickly as possible so that we can get our front-line health care workers and our Elders protected as soon as possible.”

Statewide, 175 Alaskan residents have died due to COVID-19 to date. There are currently 125 people hospitalized with COVID-19, accounting for 15.4 percent of all hospital beds across the state. There are 35 Intensive Care Unit beds available statewide. In the Mat-Su, there are 5,450 total cases of COVID-19 among Valley residents. There are 21 people currently hospitalized, accounting for 32.8 percent of all hospitalized patients in the Valley. Of the 14 available ICU beds at Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, only one is currently available.

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