The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced Monday that more than 3,000 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Alaska over the weekend, including 244 from communities on the Kenai Peninsula. The department also announced that, as of Feb. 6, it would only be reporting new COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday.
Included in the new resident cases reported Monday were 61 cases from Soldotna, 56 cases from Kenai, 43 cases from Seward, 33 cases from Homer, 15 from the Kenai Peninsula’s northern communities, 11 cases from Sterling, nine cases from Anchor Point, nine cases from the Kenai Peninsula’s southern communities, five cases from Nikiski and two cases from Fritz Creek.
As of Monday, 64.1% of Alaskans 5 and older had received at least one dose of their COVID-19 vaccine, while 58.6% were fully vaccinated. The Kenai Peninsula Borough continues to lag behind other regions in the state for the proportion of the community vaccinated against COVID-19, with 48.6% of residents 5 and older having received at least one dose.
Health experts widely agree getting vaccinated against COVID will help slow the spread and protect people from severe illness, hospitalization and death.
“The higher the vaccination rate, the more protected community members are from COVID-19,” DHSS said in a Monday release.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved for everyone 5 years and older, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines are approved for anyone 18 and older.
Moderna’s vaccine has been fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration for those 18 and older, as has Pfizer’s vaccine, which received full FDA authorization for people 16 and older last August.
In addition to a primary series — two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Janssen vaccine — experts are strongly encouraging booster shots to protect against omicron. Health officials said studies indicate a person with their primary series is expected to be about 35% protected against omicron, and 75% protected with a booster dose.
The FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are recommending Pfizer boosters for anyone 12 and older at least five months after the primary series. Additionally, Moderna boosters are recommended for anyone 18 and older at least six months after a primary series.
Janssen boosters are approved for anyone 18 and older at least two months after initial vaccination, although the FDA announced it was revising its fact sheet for the Janssen shot to include more data on the risks of blood clotting associated with the vaccine.
According to the DHSS Facebook page, the state is recommending people with a primary Janssen vaccine to get either a Pfizer or Moderna booster for more robust protection.
Getting a vaccine
COVID-19 vaccines do not cost money. Many organizations on the central peninsula — including Walmart, Walgreens, the Kenai Fire Department and Kenai Public Health — offer vaccines.
Additionally, Soldotna Professional Pharmacy hosts a walk-in clinic in its strip mall storefront at the “Y” intersection of the Sterling and Kenai Spur highways. The clinic is open from noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Vaccination appointments can also be scheduled through the online portal PrepMod, which can be accessed at myhealth.alaska.gov.
A map of vaccine providers can be found on DHSS’ COVID-19 vaccine website at covidvax.alaska.gov.
People who would like assistance scheduling a vaccination appointment can call the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management call center. The center operates Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon. The central peninsula call center can be reached at 907-262-4636. The Homer call center can be reached at 907-235-4636. The Seward call center can be reached at 907-224-4636.
Officials encourage anyone with symptoms to test for COVID-19, despite vaccination status.
In Kenai, testing is available at Odyssey Family Practice, Kenai Public Health Center and Capstone Clinic. At-home test kits are also available for free at Kenai Public Health.
In Soldotna, testing is available at the Peninsula Community Health Center, Urgent Care of Soldotna, Walgreens and Soldotna Professional Pharmacy.
In Homer, testing is available at South Peninsula Hospital, or through other area health care providers at Seldovia Village Tribe Health and Wellness, Kachemak Medical Group and Homer Medical Center. In addition, Capstone Clinic in Homer will be offering drive-thru tests Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Friday. Register with the COVID Secure App before arriving.
In Seward, testing is available at Providence Medical Center, Chugachmiut-North Star Health Clinic, Glacier Family Medicine, Seward Community Health Center and the Safeway pharmacy.