FILE - A sign requiring masks as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus on a store front in Philadelphia, is seen Feb. 16, 2022. Philadelphia is reinstating its indoor mask mandate after reporting a sharp increase in coronavirus infections, Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, the city’s top health official, announced Monday, April 11, 2022. Confirmed COVID-19 cases have risen more than 50% in 10 days, the threshold at which the city’s guidelines call for people to wear masks indoors. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

FILE - A sign requiring masks as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus on a store front in Philadelphia, is seen Feb. 16, 2022. Philadelphia is reinstating its indoor mask mandate after reporting a sharp increase in coronavirus infections, Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, the city’s top health official, announced Monday, April 11, 2022. Confirmed COVID-19 cases have risen more than 50% in 10 days, the threshold at which the city’s guidelines call for people to wear masks indoors. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

US marks 1 million COVID-19 deaths; 15 more reported in Alaska

The state Department of Health and Social Services reported 15 more COVID-19 deaths Thursday, as the United States marked 1 million coronavirus-related deaths.

According to the Associated Press, COVID has now killed more than 999,000 people in the United States and around 6.2 million globally. President Joe Biden spoke to world leaders Thursday, reiterating the need for governments to continue to attack the virus. He called Thursday’s news of 1 million American deaths from COVID a “tragic milestone.”

With the new deaths reported by the state on Wednesday, a total of 1,235 Alaskans have now died of COVID. Elizabeth Manning, the communications manager for the DHSS, confirmed that three of the newly reported deaths occurred in January, four in February, six in March and two in April.

The state also reported a total of 1,629 new COVID cases from May 4 through May 10, a 6% increase from the week prior. On Wednesday there were a total of 41 COVID-related hospitalizations in Alaska — up from 33 last week — with four patients on ventilators.

Officials recommend all eligible Alaskans be up to date on their COVID vaccines to minimize the impact on communities.

As of Wednesday, 64.9% of Alaskans 5 and older were considered fully vaccinated against the virus, according to the DHSS. In the Kenai Peninsula Borough, that average was at 50.3%.

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.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved for everyone 5 years and older, while the Moderna shot is approved for anyone 18 and older.

Last week the Food and Drug Administration said the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen shot should only be given to adults who cannot receive a different vaccine or specifically request J&J’s vaccine, the AP reported. U.S. authorities for months have recommended that Americans get Pfizer or Moderna shots instead of J&J’s vaccine, according to the AP.

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.

For those 50 years and older who are up to date with their primary series and first booster, another dose of either Pfizer or Moderna is authorized four months after the initial booster dose. In this category, a person with three vaccines of any combination of Pfizer or Moderna is now eligible for a fourth dose, and those with a single Janssen shot and booster can now receive a third dose of either Pfizer or Moderna.

In addition, certain immunocompromised individuals can also receive another Pfizer or Moderna shot four months after their last booster. This would include three shots for a primary series and two additional booster doses.

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

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

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