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First shipment of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine arrives in Alaska

Moderna COVID-19 vaccine
Moderna COVID-19 vaccine(Moderna)
Published: Dec. 21, 2020 at 12:41 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The second COVID-19 vaccine authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) arrived in Alaska on Monday. Distribution and administration of this vaccine, made by Moderna, will occur this week in Alaska alongside the continued roll-out of the Pfizer vaccine which started last Monday.

As of Sunday, 5,674 doses of Pfizer vaccine have been administered in Alaska and reported to Alaska’s VacTraAK immunization information system.

The Moderna vaccine received emergency use authorization from the FDA on Friday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended Saturday that Americans aged 18 and older receive the Moderna vaccine under emergency use. CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield signed the ACIP recommendation, which began distribution of the Moderna vaccine on Sunday.

“We want to offer this vaccine to Alaskans as quickly as possible,” said Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink. “This is a major step in that direction. We’re extremely grateful for the hard work that has gone into developing this vaccine and ensuring its safety. Our role is to continue to distribute vaccine according to federal and state allocation plans to Alaskans who want it.”

According to current federal government estimates, Alaska will initially receive 26,800 doses of Moderna vaccine in addition to the 35,100 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which began to be distributed and administered last week. These numbers include the Indian Health Service allocations for Alaska, but do not include vaccine allocated to Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense.

The initial state allocations from Pfizer and Moderna include enough doses for 61,900 people. Both vaccines require a second dose; the second doses are being held in reserve by the federal government to ensure they will be available when needed. The follow-up dose of the Pfizer vaccine should be taken three weeks after the first dose while the separation between doses is four weeks for the Moderna vaccine.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are similar in that they both use messenger RNA technology (mRNA) to protect people against the virus, they are highly effective, and they require two doses spaced apart. Both vaccines must be kept cold but the Moderna vaccine must be shipped at -4° Fahrenheit and is stable after thawing at refrigerator temperatures for 30 days and at room temperature for 12 hours. The Pfizer vaccine must be shipped at -94° Fahrenheit but can only be stored at refrigerated temperature for 5 days.

“The Moderna vaccine will help us reach more communities, especially those that have less access to cold storage,” said Tessa Walker Linderman, the DHSS co-lead of Alaska’s COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force. “Having both vaccines provides us more vaccine – and more flexibility.”

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