Becky Bohrer / AP
Adventurous tourists head to Alaska for a variety of delicacies, including the state’s bountiful wildlife, sparkling glaciers, and dazzling Northern Lights.
Now, authorities are offering another attraction: free COVID-19 vaccines.
It’s part of an effort to revive a struggling summer tourism industry that has been devastated by cruise bans and pandemic travel warnings. Officials hope the added incentive of a COVID-19 vaccine will attract visitors.
As of June 1, anyone aged 12 and over from anywhere in the world can get the vaccine in Alaska. Photos are readily available at one of the state’s main airports, Governor Mike Dunleavy said at a press conference on Friday.
“What we want to do is make sure that our fantastic tourism industry, including cruise ships, including our hospitality in our ancillary businesses, have the opportunity to return to where they were,” said Dunleavy.
The Alaska Tourism Industry Association reports that in 2019, more than 52,000 Alaskans – one in 10 – depended on tourism for their income. That same year, vacationers spent an estimated $ 2.2 billion in the state.
Dunleavy added: “The idea is if we have an excess of vaccines why not use them? So what we tell our tourists is … if you come to Alaska you get a free vaccine. if you want one. “
As of Wednesday, 53% of residents had received at least one dose of vaccine, while 46% were fully immunized.
Heidi Hedberg, director of public health at the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services, said airport vaccination clinics will offer a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to anyone who requests it.
“We recognize that when individuals come to Alaska, they may not stay 21 days or 28 days… but we offer that first dose,” Hedberg said.
If they choose to stay longer, they will also be entitled to a second free dose, she added.
Mayowa Aina of Alaska Public Media in Anchorage contributed to this story.