Alaska Governor “Luring” Tourists with Free Vaccine

In an effort to jump-start Alaska’s summer tourism, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy (R) stated that arriving tourists can receive a free COVID-19 vaccine at four major airports in the state beginning on June 1.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy announces a tourism aid initiative at Wings Airways Hangar in Juneau, Alaska, on April 9, 2021. (Governor’s Office/Kevin Goodman)

Alaska Governor entices tourists with free vaccine

With this directive, his team unveiled plans that the state hopes will lure tourists to the Last Frontier and help revitalize the state’s tourism industry. With cruise and land-based tourism shattered by the pandemic, the economic impact on the state’s revenue for their short tourist season was massive. 

In his original statement, Dunleavy (R) used the word, “luring” to describe the effort to bring summer tourism back to Alaska. The cost for free vaccine distribution would be paid for using federal money, according to Dunleavy. 

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Dunleavy has outlined plans for a national marketing campaign with federal funds and said using the vaccine to bring tourists is “probably another good reason to come to the state of Alaska in the summer.”

Alaska offers free vaccine to Anchorage tourists.
Beautiful Anchorage, Alaska skyline.

Dunleavy May Sue CDC Over Cruise Ship Ban

Concerned over another summer of lost cruise ship revenue to the state, Dunleavy and other key Republican officials in Alaska could join Florida in a lawsuit against the CDC. The suit would force the CDC to rescind the ban as well as to give the cruise industry a set date to resume cruising from U.S. ports. 

Southeast Alaska, where the majority of cruise ships travel each season, was extremely hard hit last summer when the CDC issued a No Sail Order banning cruise ships from sailing to/from U.S. ports.

“We’re fully prepared to file suit to talk about damages to our state, to our businesses [and] to our municipalities,” Dunleavy said. “I know Florida has embarked upon this and we’ll be in conversation — quite frankly we may sign up with them and file our own suit if necessary. We’re not doing this as a threat. We want to work with the federal government, but if that’s the only tool that’s going to be left in our toolbox, we’re prepared to pursue that.”

Canada’s government also issued a ban on foreign cruise ships to their ports. Cruise ships that might have departed from Seattle or Vancouver were prohibited from doing so, as this conflicted with the Passenger Vessel Services Act. 

The PVSA requires all foreign-flagged ships from departing from a U.S. port to make a service call at a foreign port before returning to the U.S. 

As a result, Dunleavy signed the Senate Joint Resolution 9, aimed to ask the Federal Government to make cruise ships exempt from the Passenger Vessel Services Act. 

Alaska Leads the U.S. in Vaccinations

Nearly 40% of Alaska adults 16 and over are fully vaccinated, according to the office run by Anne Zink, the state’s Chief Medical Officer in change of the state health department. In March, Alaska was the first state to allow anyone 16 years and older living or working in Alaska to have access to the vaccine. 

“The idea is if we have excess vaccines, why not use them?” Dunleavy said. “So what we’re saying to our tourists [is] if you come to Alaska … you get a free vaccination if you want one.”

According to Heidi Hedberg, Alaska’s director of the Division of Public Health, there is a good supply of available vaccine. The shots given at the airports will be the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. 

Which Alaska Airports Will Offer Free Vaccines

If all goes as planned, four major airports in Alaska will give arriving passengers a free vaccine. The chosen airports are Juneau (the state capital), Ketchikan, Anchorage and in Alaska’s interior, Fairbanks. 

Hedberg stated that if newly-vaccinated tourists leave the state before their second dose, it’s up to them (the tourists) to figure out how and where to get the required second dose within the three- to four-week waiting period between shots. 

But at least the first dose is free. Whether or not this is an effective way to market Alaska by giving a free vaccine when nearly one-third of the adult population in the U.S. is already fully vaccinated, remains to be seen.

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