Critical infrastructure workers, such as power, gas, and waste water workers; pilots; school workers; domestic violence shelter staff; court system staff; senior citizens; those working in domestic abuse shelters.
Representatives from the commercial fishing industry and those who work on processors were especially noticeable in the public comment period today, as were those from the education system.
They were among the groups that had someone call to give a one-minute plea to State health officials to include their workers or demographic in the next round of COVID-19 vaccinations.
The State’s public comment period today on Zoom was in front of the panel making the decision; it is comprised of health care professionals, ethicists, and other health professionals, led by Dr. Anne Zink, the state chief medical officer.
Also requesting to be in line were representatives of zoo, sea life workers, veterinary workers, and search and rescue volunteer groups, such as Juneau Mountain Rescue.
Elizabeth Medicine Crow of First Alaskans Institute requested that Native culture bearers, elders, and language teachers be at the top of the vaccination list even if they are young, because they are so important and the culture is in jeopardy, with some languages near extinction.
Cynthia Christiansen said that rather than younger people, the next group should be the group most vulnerable — the aged — and that Alaskans were being pitted against each other to get in line for the vaccine.
Ollie Christieansen agreed, saying elderly and the ill should be a priority, not young people who can better fight the disease.
Monte Hawver of the Brother Francis Shelter in Kodiak said his staff needs to be innoculated so the shelter doesn’t need to shut down, leaving people in the cold. A representative from the court system reminded the panel that the 39 courts with 775 staff members around the state cannot work from home and cannot take court files home, and that justice must go on.
The committee will be weighing its decision based on guidance from the CDC, along with how to maximize the benefits and minimize the harms of vaccination, prevent illness and death, as well as achieve equal outcomes for all Alaskans.
The state is currently in the 1a phase, with frontline health care and first responders being vaccinated.
Phase 1b guidance from the state will be released on Dec. 30. The state does not yet have numbers from the federal government for what it will be receiving in January for that allocation, but expects regular shipments throughout 2021, in addition to allocations going directly to Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense, as well as separate Tribal allocations.
Phase 1c is the next round after 1b, and public comments on that phase will be taken on Jan. 11.