Young, Murkowski ramp up message on COVID-19 vaccines as delta variant surges

Alaska Congressman Don Young and U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski are using their social media channels to promote vaccination against COVID-19 as infections and hospitalizations surge again.

“There’s much misinformation out there so I’ll be very clear in my position: These shots are safe, effective and they cost you nothing,” Young says in a video that he’s pinned to the top of his Twitter feed, for extra emphasis.

Early in the pandemic, Young played down the threat, calling it the “beer virus.” But for months he’s been urging Alaskans to get the shots. He survived a COVID infection last fall that sent him to the hospital.

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This week, with the highly contagious delta variant on the rise in Alaska, Young has ramped up the message with a more urgent video.

“I think it’s crucially important. I urge you to do this, as I have done,” he says on the video, which he posted on social media and sent to some Alaskans by email. “I got vaccinated. I believe it works. I know it works. I want you to do the same thing, for Alaska and for yourselves.”

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Murkowski’s video is shorter and more adamant.

“I do not want to go back to mask-wearing inside,” she says, removing a mask. “And I know you don’t either. So get the vaccine.”

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan is not outspoken on the subject. His social media channels don’t feature videos promoting vaccination. In response to an inquiry, Sullivan’s office issued a statement:

It’s an individual choice, not the government’s choice. I got vaccinated because I wanted to protect my family, the people I work with, and the Alaskans I represent and interact with. We all want to put this pandemic behind us for the benefit of our health, our families and our economy, so I encourage Alaskans to strongly consider getting the vaccine, like hundreds of thousands of our fellow Alaskans have done. As always, if you have questions or concerns about the vaccine, consult with a medical professional.

RELATED: A CDC document gives new details on just how dangerous the delta variant really is

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Liz Ruskin covers Alaska issues in Washington as the network's D.C. correspondent. She was born in Anchorage and is a West High grad. She has degrees from the University of Washington and the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia. She previously worked at the Homer News, the Anchorage Daily News and the Washington bureau of McClatchy Newspapers. She also freelanced for several years from the U.K. and Japan, in print and radio. Liz has been APRN’s Washington, D.C. correspondent since October 2013. She's @lruskin on Twitter. She welcomes your news tips at lruskin (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  | About Liz