If you’re the type of multitasker who’d combine an adventure to Denali National Park and Preserve with acquired immunity, Alaska has the deal for you: Starting June 1, the state will be offering free COVID-19 vaccinations to travelers at its largest airports.
According to Republican governor Mike Dunleavy, the free vaccine offer is meant to encourage tourism to Alaska. In a typical year, most Alaska tourists arrive on cruise ships. For example, more than a million tourists came to the state on cruise ships in 2018. But with a Canadian ban on cruise ships going until at least 2022, that flow of visitors has disappeared.
If you’re wondering why ships can’t go directly from Seattle to Alaska, blame the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886. The law states that foreign flagged ships (and nearly all cruise ships are) can’t take passengers directly between two U.S. ports.
Alaska’s vaccination program will be available at the Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, and Ketchikan airports, outside of security areas. This way, state residents can get their shot if they’re picking up friends or family at the airport. Alaska officials are planning a soft rollout of their vaccine plan at the end of April.
“The idea is that we have excess vaccines, why not use them?” Dunleavy says.
Alaska has had one of the highest vaccination rates in the United States, but recently plateaued at 33 percent of the eligible adult population. The state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, says there will be enough vaccines for all eligible Alaska adults by the end of May.
Of course, June 1 is a while away and vaccines are free across the United States, so you probably don’t have to go to Alaska to get your vaccine. However, if you want to go hiking in Denali or fishing on the Kenai River for king salmon, the state would probably love to have you.