Alaska will offer free COVID-19 vaccines to tourists this summer, in an effort to boost a beleaguered tourism industry hit hard by cruise bans and general travel warnings.
Starting June 1, tourists entering Alaska will be able to get a vaccine shot at one of the state's major airports, Alaska's Gov. Mike Dunleavy said during a news conference on Friday. The vaccine will be available outside the security area at four airports: in Juneau, Fairbanks, Ketchikan, and Anchorage (the least crowded city in America).
Currently, vaccines are only approved for people 16 years old and older.
"What we want to do is make sure that our fantastic tourist industry — including the cruise ships, including our hospitality in our ancillary businesses — have an opportunity to get back to where they were," Dunleavy said, adding, "The idea is if we have excess vaccines, why not use them? So what we're saying to our tourists is… if you come to Alaska, you get a free vaccination if you want one."
Airport vaccination centers will offer the first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, said Heidi Hedberg, the director of public health at the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. She said the state will not differentiate between tourists and residents when allocating its vaccine supply.
"We recognize that when individuals come up to Alaska, they may not stay for 21 days or 28 days… but we're offering that first dose," Hedberg said, adding if visitors do choose to stay longer, they can receive the second dose at any site in the state. "Anyone that is traveling in or through Alaska will be able to get vaccinated if they choose."
The state will begin with a "soft rollout" from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. at the Anchorage airport for five days in late April, The Associated Press reported.
So far, 47.1% of Alaskans 16 and older have received at least one dose of a vaccine and 39.1% have been fully vaccinated, according to state's Department of Health and Social Services Coronavirus Response Hub, but Dunleavy said there has been a "leveling off" of people who want to get the jab.
In giving tourists the shot, Dunleavy said it gives people "another good reason to come to the state of Alaska this summer." Currently, travelers to Alaska are not required to get tested prior to arrival.
Alaska's decision to offer the jab to visitors comes days after the minister of tourism for the Maldives said the island nation would look to do the same. The Maldives has received vaccines from India, China, and the World Health Organization's Covax program, and has ordered more doses from Singapore.
Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.
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