COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

Officials still emphasize vaccines as COVID hospitalizations rise

Vaccines still provide the best protection against COVID, according to health officials

The state Department of Health and Social Services reported 24 new COVID-19 deaths in Alaska on Wednesday, and a total of 67 COVID-related hospitalizations.

That number is up from the previous week’s update, which reported 56 people hospitalized with the illness between June 29 and July 5.

Dr. Lisa Rabinowitz, a staff physician with the DHSS, said in a public science session Tuesday that vaccines still provide the best protection against COVID.

“As you’ve heard me talk about a million times, I just want to highlight again how important vaccines are,” she said. “We’re going to talk about treatments, but really vaccines offer our best protection.”

While antiviral treatments — like monoclonal antibody infusions and oral drugs — have been useful for people infected with COVID, officials said Tuesday that vaccines are the most effective way to combat the virus, especially as variants continue to circulate.

“Treatments, such as the oral antivirals and the monoclonal antibodies, are available for many individuals,” Rabinowitz said. “Ultimately, we’re looking at vaccines and booster shots, (which) are really our best shot at preventing severe disease.”

There were also a total of 3,449 new COVID cases from July 6 through July 12. Because of the availability of at-home COVID testing, however, officials say hospitalization data is the most effective indicator of the prevalence of the virus.

Anyone over 6 months old is eligible for a vaccine, and the state recommends individuals receive either a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna shot. The Johnson and Johnson/Janssen vaccine is also approved for anyone 18 and older.

As of Wednesday, 64.7% of Alaskans 5 and older were considered fully vaccinated against the virus, according to the DHSS.

Booster shots are recommended, whether or not a person has already contracted the virus and despite elapsed time since the completion of the primary series. Everyone 5 and older is eligible for a booster dose.

Officials for months have recommended that Americans get Pfizer or Moderna boosters instead of J&J’s vaccine. The FDA said the J&J shot should only be given to adults who cannot receive a different vaccine or specifically request it.

For those 50 years and older who are up to date with their primary series and first booster, a second booster dose is recommended. In addition, certain moderately or severely immunocompromised individuals can also receive a second booster.

For more information on vaccine eligibility, visit

A map of vaccine providers can be found on DHSS’ COVID-19 vaccine website at

Reach reporter Camille Botello at

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