Alaska’s scenery and wildlife have long attracted tourists, reported NPR. Now, the state has a new attraction: Free COVID-19 vaccines.

  • Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced the changes at an April 16 press conference with Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum confirming the change on June 1.
  • “The idea is if we have excess vaccines, why not use them?” he said, according to NPR.
  • Officials hope the new initiative will help Alaska’s economy recover from last year’s recession while also helping vaccinate more individuals, says The Hill.

How does Alaska’s free vaccine initiative work?

As of June 1, everyone above the age of 12 from anywhere in the world is eligible for a free COVID-19 vaccine in Alaska, says NPR. Tourists are eligible for both a free first and second dose, if they choose to stay in Alaska that long.

  • Previously, only those who lived or worked in Alaska were eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations, said Alaska Public Media.

Alaska is offering all three vaccinations approved in the U.S. — Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. The state opened vaccine clinics at all major airports, including Juneau, Fairbanks and Anchorage, said Alaska Daily News.

  • Tourists only need to ask for a vaccine at the airport or make an appointment at other vaccination sites, said Alaska Daily News.

Why is Alaska offering free vaccines?

Alaska’s economy depends heavily on tourism, said NPR. With travel warnings and bans on cruise ships, the pandemic devastated tourism in the state last year.

“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 Friday per NPR.

What is the state of COVID-19 in Alaska?

About 53% of Alaskans have received a first dose of the vaccine and 46% of Alaskans have been fully vaccinated, according to NPR.

COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have fallen across the state, reports The Hill. At the end of May, Alaska reopened all businesses, places of worship, libraries, museums, and sports or recreational facilities but maintained restrictions on large gatherings.

  • Local communities can still choose to extend restrictions, says The Hill.

The state is preparing to welcome tourists for the summer season, reports The Hill and NPR.