Alaska’s state public health and tribal health partnership exemplifies a co-leadership model that prioritizes health equity and acknowledges collective historical trauma associated with previous public health emergencies. State and tribal leaders co-led the COVID-19 vaccination effort including allocation, distribution, funding, and communication. As a result, many Alaska Native people received COVID-19 vaccinations despite Alaska’s geographic and transportation challenges. As of July 13, 2021, according to Alaska’s COVID-19 Vaccine Monitoring Dashboard, 47 percent of all Alaskans and 57.7 percent of the American Indian and Alaska Native population received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.
Several key factors contributed to Alaska’s successful partnership with tribal leaders:
- Robust partnership and transparency among state and tribal leaders was prioritized at every point of the process to build efficiency and trust;
- The state provided resources and the tribes and regions led the way on strategy, process, and allocation that met the unique needs, available resources, and geography of their communities;
- The vaccination approach was built on pre-existing infrastructure and capacity for childhood immunizations and flu vaccinations, health care delivery, and connections among the community;
- The state and tribal partnership was solutions-focused, identifying and solving challenges using partnerships, unique community assets, and creative approaches (for example, vaccinating entire communities at once to increase confidence among community members and reduce logistical challenges);
- Tribes, villages, and communities identified potential challenges and shared best practices with each other early and often to support successful implementation; and
- The federal and Alaska state governments recognized and respected the sovereignty of tribes and provided additional financial and supportive resources when needed for tribal nations.