Alaska on Tuesday became the first state to remove nearly all eligibility requirements for the coronavirus vaccine, making immunization available to anyone 16 and older who lives or works in the state.

The state’s governor, Republican Mike Dunleavy, announced the move in a news release, calling it a “historic step” and “another nationwide first for Alaska.”

The statement marked a turning point in the nation’s immunization campaign and a reminder that access to the shots has been highly uneven throughout the country. Some states are still reserving appointments for adults 65 and older, in addition to other high-risk groups.

About a quarter of Alaska’s residents have received at least one dose of vaccine, making the state a leader in quickly carrying out inoculations. It shares that distinction with several heavily rural states, such as West Virginia and the Dakotas.

Alaska has also benefited from partnerships with tribal health organizations, which have received their own vaccine supply through the Indian Health Service.

Alaska’s health commissioner, Adam Crum, said any residents with “questions about vaccine eligibility and criteria” should step forward: “Simply put, you are eligible to get the vaccine.” The move was also celebrated by senior Biden administration officials handling the White House’s coronavirus response, including Andy Slavitt.


President Biden said last week that there would be enough vaccine to cover every adult by the end of May.

Products developed by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have only been authorized for people 18 and older. Those who are 16 can receive the vaccine created by Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech.

Last week, Alaska expanded access to adults 55 and older, as well as to residents of any age with a high-risk medical condition and those in jobs defined broadly as essential. That still left appointments unclaimed.

Other states have also broadened eligibility, though none has gone as far. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, said Monday that adults 50 and older could start reserving appointments this week. Indiana and West Virginia have opened access to the same age group, and Michigan will do so on March 20, after first targeting people in that bracket with high-risk conditions.

Some individual counties have moved ahead of statewide criteria in expanding access. Gila County in central Arizona recently made vaccines available to the general population after finding that appointments were going unclaimed.

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