Southcentral Foundation, an Anchorage health organization for Alaska Natives, is giving COVID-19 vaccinations to those clients requesting them who are 18 or older.
Non-Native Alaskans are not able to access these particular services. Vaccines for non-Natives in Alaska are only available for those 65 and older at this time. Those vaccinations started this week, are by appointment, and those appointments are hard to get.
Alaska received a disproportionate share of vaccines that were designated exclusively for Alaska Natives, who are also having more fatalities linked to COVID-19 infections.
As it turns out, the Indian Health Service is treated like its own state for distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines. Across the country IHS plans to vaccinate more than two million Native Americans and Alaska Natives in coming weeks. According to the U.S. Census of 2010, 2.9 million people identify as American Indian and Alaska Native.
In the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, many Alaska Natives are refusing the vaccine, according to KYUK radio. The tribal health group Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation has responded by expanding eligibility for the vaccine because it received more doses than it expected, and because so many residents are declining the shots.
Beginning this week in surrounding villages, anyone 16 and older can receive the vaccine. Village residents have limited access to health care facilities, and many live in crowded homes, where infection can spread quickly, according to KYUK radio.
But in the hub community of Bethel, the vaccine through the Native health corporation is available to anyone age 50 or older.