While inundating Alaskans with pro-vaccine messaging via radio, television, social media and targeted flyers, Gov. Mike Dunleavy has never once rolled up his own sleeves to receive the experimental COVID shot.
From the beginning, the governor has walked a fine line, urging Alaskans to get vaccinated while reiterating that he will never mandate they do so. When the Pfizer and Moderna shots were first approved for emergency use, Alaska was initially among one of the most vaccinated states in the union. Over the past few months, however, enthusiasm for the shot has dramatically waned and only a trickle of newly vaccinated Alaskans are reported each day.
In March, on the recommendation from the CDC, Dunleavy was the first governor in the nation to make COVID shots available to anyone, ages 16 and up.
This month he lowered that to ages 12 and older. Under the banner of “Sleeves up for Summer,” Dunleavy has ramped up state-sponsored vaccine campaigns. In a series of state produced videos, many of Dunleavy’s top officials are shown publicly celebrating their status as vaccinated. Health Commissioner Adam Crum even had the camera rolling when he received the COVID jab.
Dunleavy has shot his fair share of videos as well, repeatedly telling Alaskans that he is planning to get the vaccine. On April 5 the governor appears in a YouTube video in which he says: “I’m getting the vaccine, not because I’m afraid, but because I want to help Alaska get back to normal. If you’re 16 or older, join me. Receive the vaccine and help Alaska get back up and running.”
Two weeks later, on April 21, the governor reiterated this message with another video.
“I’m getting the vaccine because I want to help Alaska businesses get back to work and I want to do the thing that we all love. If you’re willing, we hope you’ll join us. Sleeves up for summer. Let’s get Alaska up and running.”
But on May 17, Dunleavy’s Deputy Director of Communications, Jeff Turner, responded to a Watchman email about the governors vaccination status. He said, “The Governor has not been vaccinated yet.” When asked why the governor is holding out, no explanation was given.
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One possible reason is that Dunleavy tested positive for the virus on Feb. 24. Still, the CDC asserts, “you should be vaccinated regardless of whether you already had COVID-19. That’s because experts do not yet know how long you are protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19.”
The CDC notes, however, that if a person is treated for COVID with “monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine.” It is not clear whether Dunleavy received such treatment, but it has now been 82 days since he reported being infected with the virus back in February. Meanwhile the state reports that 267,354 Alaskans – ages 16 and older – are now deemed “fully vaccinated” as of May 17.
According to the CDC-run VAERS reporting site at least 4,057 Americans (including 22 Alaskans) have died shortly after receiving the vaccine. Another 192,954 Americans (including 869 Alaskans) have reported adverse reactions such as anaphylaxis, fainting, high fevers, strokes, shortness of breath, rashes, swollen tongue, discoloration of the skin and a litany of other side effects. According to the CDC, its VAERS website only captures a small percentage of overall adverse reactions to vaccines.
“Underreporting is one of the main limitations of passive surveillance systems, including VAERS,” the CDC website admits. “The term, underreporting refers to the fact that VAERS receives reports for only a small fraction of actual adverse events.”