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Infectious Disease

COVID-19 vaccine information for healthcare workers

Our COVID-19 vaccine information provides general information about the COVID-19 vaccine in Alaska.

At this time, no COVID-19 vaccine is available. We are planning for distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC recently released a playbook to accelerate our planning and we expect to have a plan prepared and submitted to the CDC by October 16.

How do I enroll in the COVID-19 Vaccine Program?

In order to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, providers will need to enroll in a COVID-19 vaccine program coordinated by the Alaska Immunization Program, and will agree to conditions outlined in the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Provider Agreement. Enrollment is not yet open at this time.

Will the vaccine be available to everyone in Alaska?

At first, vaccine would be available in limited supply and would be offered to certain groups. Federal government guidance would prioritize initial supply. We are receiving ongoing guidance from federal agencies on how to prioritize availability of vaccine. The vaccine may also require two doses, separated by either three or four weeks.  Some of the prioritized populations may include:

  • Healthcare workers
  • Staff and residents in long-term care and assisted living facilities
  • Critical worker infrastructure workforce
  • People at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness
  • People at increased risk of acquiring or transmitting COVID-19

How will supplies be received?

The CDC will use its current centralized distribution contract to fulfill orders for most COVID-19 vaccine products as approved by the Alaska Immunization Program. Some vaccine products, such as those with ultra-cold temperature requirements, will be shipped directly from the manufacturer.

The Alaska Immunization Program will give enrolled providers guidance on how to order vaccine. Vaccine (and adjuvant, if required) will be shipped to provider sites within 24 hours of order approval by the immunization program, if supply is available. Ancillary supply kits and diluent (if required) will ship separately from the vaccine due to different cold chain requirements, but shipment will be timed to arrive with or before the vaccine.

Ancillary supply kits will include needles, syringes, alcohol prep pads, COVID-19 vaccination record cards for each vaccine recipient, and a minimal supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), including surgical masks and face shields, for vaccinators.

Ultra-cold vaccine may be shipped from the manufacturer in coolers that are packed with dry ice, can store vaccine for an extended period of time, and can be repacked for longer use. The Alaska Immunization Program will provide additional information as more guidance is made available.

What reporting measures will be required?

COVID-19 vaccination providers will be required to report ongoing COVID-19 vaccine inventory; guidance will be provided by the Alaska Immunization Program.

Clinically important adverse events following any vaccination should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Adverse events will also be monitored through electronic health record (EHR) and claims-based systems. Additional vaccine safety monitoring may be required under the Emergency Use Authorization.

What will be the cost of the COVID-19 vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccine and ancillary supplies will be procured and distributed by the federal government at no cost to enrolled COVID-19 vaccination providers. It’s expected that providers will be able to bill insurance an administration fee. Planners are reviewing options for making the vaccine available to Alaskans at no charge, or at reduced cost.  

What is the process for a vaccine to be considered safe and effective?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for evaluating safety and efficacy of medical products, such as vaccines. When certain public health emergencies arise, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA can use an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to authorize life-saving medications or other medical products.

While the EUA process is shortened from the traditional license process, the FDA will still be responsible for a review of risks and benefits for the potential products. In the case of COVID-19 vaccines, the FDA previously released guidance to support the development of data needed to weigh risks and benefits for a vaccine. In the guidance document, Development and Licensure of Vaccines to Prevent COVID-19, manufacturers were presented an outline of expectations for the design of clinical trials, trial populations, safety and efficacy considerations and the information that would be needed to assess manufacturing and facility information, as well as recommendations to support safety. The guidelines also outline circumstances where an EUA would be considered.

Will there be a COVID-19 vaccine mandate?

There are no plans for a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Who is responsible for planning for the COVID-19 vaccine?

The State of Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services and Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium are working jointly. The CDC recently released a playbook to accelerate our planning and we expect to have a plan prepared and submitted to the CDC by October 16. The initial planning stages will focus largely on guidance provided by the CDC. The team will be establishing contact with stakeholders throughout the state as planning develops further.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Team includes eight sub-teams including planning, operations, software solutions, payers, pharmacy, communications and education, data and a liaison team. Together, these teams are reviewing federal guidance and are planning a clear course of action for when a vaccine is available.

Local planning is essential to the effective distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. The planning team anticipates that Local-level emergency operations centers and healthcare workers will have flexibility to consider ways vaccination efforts may need to be tailored to fit their community. Communities play a critical role by assembling local vaccine planning teams with representation from a variety of stakeholders, reviewing the capabilities and challenges for equitable distribution of the vaccine in their communities, and utilizing local resources such as pharmacies, vaccine providers, and Point of Dispensing plans to ensure that individuals have access to the vaccine in all phases of the distribution process.

How can I stay informed about COVID-19 vaccine in Alaska?

Virtual learning opportunities for the COVID-19 vaccine include:

Register for DHSS newsletters and updates, such as:

  • Vaccination Updates
  • Alaska Immunization Program Newsletter
  • Epidemiology Bulletin
  •  COVID-19 Alaska Clinical Update
  • Chief Medical Officer Newsletter