With more vaccines arriving in Alaska, state debuts new appointment hotline

a person receives a vaccination
Anchorage School District nurse Jennifer Perkins injects retired chemistry teacher David Boyd with the COVID-19 vaccine earlier this month. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

State health officials said they’re set to launch a live hotline this week for Alaskans trying to get vaccine appointments.

There’s currently an answering service where Alaskans looking for appointments can leave messages to be returned later.

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But with February’s shipment of COVID-19 vaccine expected from the federal government soon, Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration said Monday that it’s replacing the leave-a-message approach with a live hotline.

A staff of more than 40 will be available to answer calls from people trying to book appointments, said Tessa Walker Linderman, a top state vaccine official.

Many of the workers used to be tasked with tracking the contacts of people newly-infected with COVID-19. But they’re available for other work right now because Alaska is seeing so few new cases, she said.

RELATED: Read full coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic from Alaska Public Media

“We’ve built up a huge workforce, especially when we were seeing hundreds more cases a day than we are now,” Walker Linderman said. “So, we’ve shifted some of those folks over to help with this.”

It’s still possible that people will have to wait on hold, Walker Linderman said, but she added the system should allow an in-person response within a reasonable amount of time, rather than forcing Alaskans to wait for a call back.

State officials say they expect to learn the size of Alaska’s February vaccine shipment in the next few days. New appointments will be added to the state’s vaccine website starting around noon Thursday.

The appointment hotline is 907-646-3322.

Nat Herz covers government, politics, environment and COVID-19 for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at nherz@alaskapublic.org.

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