Nurse Tracy Silta draws a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the walk-in clinic at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling Highways in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Nurse Tracy Silta draws a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the walk-in clinic at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling Highways in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

State health officials: COVID vaccine is safe

Alaska state health officials hosted a Public Health ECHO on Wednesday

The vaccine and bivalent booster for COVID-19 are safe, effective and recommended, Alaska state health officials reiterated during a Public Health ECHO on Wednesday, held via Zoom and livestreamed to Facebook.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin responded to multiple questions regarding the possibility of developing adverse effects as a result of receiving vaccines, specifically heart issues and ischemic stroke. He shared data compiled and released earlier this week by Texas epidemiologist Dr. Katelyn Jetelina and Yale physician Dr. Kristen Panthagani, and discussed concerns related to the vaccine.

In regards to the possibility of developing myocarditis — inflammation of the heart wall — or pericarditis — inflammation of tissue around the heart — McLaughlin discussed findings of a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Included in Jetelina and Panthagani’s report, the study compared the number of incidences per 100,000 people of various adverse effects in those who have received the vaccine to those who have contracted COVID-19.

“This is from the most prestigious medical journal in the United States,” he said. “The number of events per 100,000 population is higher in almost every category for people who were infected with the virus.”

Acute kidney injury, heart arrhythmia, deep-vein thrombosis, intracranial hemorrhage, heart attack, myocarditis, pericarditis and pulmonary embolism are all shown in the results to occur many times more frequently in those without the vaccine. Kidney injury occurs in those with the virus at 125 per 100,000. The vaccine was found statistically to reduce the incidence of kidney injury per 100,000. For heart attack, myocarditis and pericarditis, results show between 1 and 3 events in the vaccinated, and between 11 and 25 in those with the virus.

Dr. Lisa Rabinowitz, who was also part of the ECHO, said that any risk of impact to the heart by the vaccines is worth taking the steps to protect the heart from an actual COVID-19 infection.

The observed events where those with the vaccine are found more likely than those with the virus were lymphadenopathy, shingles and appendicitis. Lymphadenopathy, or the swelling of the lymph nodes, is a good sign, McLaughlin said, because it shows your immune system is working. Appendicitis in the vaccinated was almost even with COVID-19 infection, at 5 and 4 respectively.

McLaughlin closed the Public Health ECHO by answering questions about the risk of ischemic stroke. On Friday, a statement was published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in collaboration with the Federal Drug Administration about a preliminary safety signal relating to the COVID-19 vaccine and ischemic stroke in people aged 65 and up.

The safety signal was an increased number of people who had received the vaccine and who were older than 65 were suffering from ischemic stroke, the interruption of blood supply to the brain.

“The U.S. has the most stringent safety monitoring,” McLaughlin said. An automated system, the Vaccine Safety Datalink, is designed to be sensitive, and when it detects the safety signal, an investigation is triggered.

The findings were connected specifically to the Pfizer COVID-19 bivalent booster, and not with Moderna’s.

The CDC investigation, through databases available from Pfizer-BioNTech, Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Affairs, other countries and the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, found it “very unlikely” that the signal is a real clinical risk. Releasing the statement and notifying the public of the signal is, the CDC says, an important move for transparency. The CDC recommends no change in vaccination practice.

Current guidance is that everyone 6 months of age and older receive the COVID-19 vaccine and remain up to date on the bivalent booster.

To view the Public Health ECHO, visit “UAA CHD Project ECHO” on Facebook. The conversation about vaccine safety begins at 46 minutes and 20 seconds in Jan. 18’s session. The full essay cited by McLaughlin can be found here

For more information on vaccine eligibility, visit

To find a COVID-19 or influenza vaccine provider, visit

Reach reporter Jake Dye at

More in News

The Kenai Courthouse is seen on Monday, July 3, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Grand jury adds charges in October killing of Homer woman

The indictment was delivered on Nov. 8

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Anchorage resident arrested in Nikiski after troopers investigate reports of stolen vehicle

Troopers responded to a residential address in Nikiski around 11:30 a.m. after being notified by Sirius XM that a stolen vehicle was there

Santa Claus greets Hudson Reinhardt during Christmas Comes to Kenai festivities at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Friday, Nov. 24, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Getting into the holiday spirit

Christmas arrives in Kenai with fireworks, Santa and a lot of rain

Kinley Ferguson tells Santa Claus what she wants for Christmas during Christmas in the Park festivities on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, at Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Creating a winter wonderland

Christmas in the Park to bring Santa, sleigh rides, fireworks on Saturday

Flowers bloom at Soldotna City Hall on Wednesday, June 24, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna to repair failed wastewater pipe

The pipe to be repaired discharges treated effluent into the Kenai River

The entrance to the Kenai Peninsula Borough building in Soldotna is seen here on June 1. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Borough gets $243k for emergency management work

The program is offered by the Federal Emergency Management Area in order to help states and other emergency management agencies implement the National Preparedness System

A mock-up of a new community health center to be located on First Avenue in Seward. (Illustration via City of Seward)
Seward council backs pursuit of funds by clinic for new facility

Members of the Seward City Council on Monday backed efforts by the… Continue reading

Jesse Lamm, Coltin Yancey and Chef Stephen Lamm plate and serve the Thanksgiving meal at the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
‘A day to be thankful’

Thanksgiving at the food bank is a community celebration

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, speaks to attendees at a town hall event on Monday, Nov. 20, 2023, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Bjorkman talks energy security, school funding at Nikiski town hall

A large portion of the discussion during Monday’s town hall focused on the pending shortage of natural gas resources in Cook Inlet

Most Read