JUNEAU (AP) — The longest-serving Republican in the U.S. House is appearing in a new round of ads urging Alaskans to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Ads featuring Rep. Don Young are being paid for by the Conquer COVID Coalition, Young spokesperson Zack Brown said by email Monday. The coalition, which includes businesses and health care and Alaska Native organizations, seeks to educate people on steps to guard against COVID-19.
Young, 88, "believes the vaccines are safe, effective and can help save lives," Brown said in response to questions from The Associated Press. "He is a trusted voice to countless Alaskans and is a straight shooter. This is why his perspective is so valuable as we work to move the needle on vaccine."
In March 2020, Young called the coronavirus the "beer virus" and to an audience that included older Alaskans characterized virus concerns as overblown. At the time, his campaign manager told the Anchorage Daily News the virus' impact is real and that Young was trying to urge calm.
Young announced last November, shortly after being reelected to the lone Alaska House seat he's held since 1973, that he had tested positive for COVID-19. He was hospitalized.
"Very frankly, I had not felt this sick in a very long time, and I am grateful to everyone who has kept me in their thoughts and prayers," he said following his release from an Anchorage hospital.
Brown said Young "has been a longtime proponent of COVID-19 vaccinations" and has done other service announcements supporting vaccines. Young's office said Young was vaccinated in the spring. Brown said this summer Young used his congressional mailing list to send vaccine information to constituents.
Young's office says the new ads featuring Young will run on TV and radio in Alaska. The coalition did not immediately respond to an email seeking details on the ad run.
The latest figures from the state health department showed 59% of eligible Alaskans 12 or older are fully vaccinated. Most of the state was listed at high alert level, which is based on reported cases over the past seven days.