Alaska Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink promotes getting immunized with the flu shot this winter. (Photo courtesy Alaska Department of Health and Social Services)

Immunize when you winterize

An annual flu shot plus the COVID-19 vaccine protects Alaskans and our health care system, too.

By Dr. Anne Zink

This year’s early snowfall was a reminder that winter is on its way. Alaskans are moving fast to put on snow tires and dig out ice scrapers. Cobwebs and goblins are popping up in stores and neighborhoods. October is here. Time to winterize and immunize.

Now is a great time to get your annual flu shot — and your COVID-19 vaccine — if you haven’t done so already. The goal is to protect Alaskans as quickly as possible, to help drive down our COVID-19 cases and prevent the flu before it begins circulating widely in our communities.

Last year, Alaskans did a great job of getting their flu shots before the end of October as recommended. We also did great as a state at wearing masks, keeping social circles small, washing hands often and physical distancing from non-household members to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Alaska, like the rest of the country, experienced historically low levels of flu last year as a result and helped push down COVID-19 case rates.

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are again high, and our health care system is stressed. If you want to help protect yourself, your family and Alaska’s health care system, please make an appointment to get a flu shot today — and get vaccinated against COVID-19 too.

The flu is responsible for hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and tens of thousands of deaths annually in the United States. Although it varies year to year, Alaska is significantly impacted by the flu. Anyone can get the flu, and serious problems can happen at any age. To learn more and to view Alaska flu data, please visit

The flu shot is safe, significantly reduces your chance of getting the flu and helps prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death associated with flu. There’s a chance you could still get the flu even if you’re protected by the flu vaccine, but if you do, you will likely have a milder illness than if you were unvaccinated. That means missing fewer days of work or school, plus it will help keep you in shape to fight off other diseases too, including COVID-19.

Flu shots can be administered at the same time as other vaccines. If you are considering getting vaccinated for COVID-19 or getting a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose, check to see if your provider or clinic offers both for convenience and efficiency.

We recommend that everyone age six months and older get an annual flu shot. Essential workers with high levels of contact with people outside their house are at higher risk for flu as well as people who live or work in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Other people at higher risk of getting severe flu disease if they get the flu include:

Pregnant women and children under 5 years of age

People 50 years and older

Adults and children who have chronic medical conditions like lung disease, asthma, heart disease, diabetes, neurologic disorders, and weakened immune systems, or those who are extremely obese

Alaska Native people and other racial groups who are disproportionately affected by chronic medical conditions that can increase the risk for severe flu or COVID-19

As the weather cools and we return to indoor activities, it’s easier for us to transmit the flu and other viruses to each other. Let’s stay ahead of the game, stay healthy, and take the strain off Alaska’s health care system. This year, when you winterize, don’t forget to immunize.

Get your flu shot this year — and every year — before the end of October. The flu shot is widely available. Contact your health care provider, pharmacy or a state public health center near you to ask about flu vaccine availability. And consider getting a COVID-19 vaccination or booster if you are eligible. For more information visit: and

Dr. Anne Zink, M.D., is a board-certified emergency physician and Alaska’s chief medical officer.

More in Opinion

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: The foolish men claiming self-defense

It’s not just misguided teenagers carrying guns who find themselves in trouble with the law.

Larry Persily (Peninsula Clarion file)
Opinion: State defends its right to cut nonexistent taxes

This from a state that has no property tax on homes or businesses, only on the oil industry.

Dr. Jay Butler, former chief medical officer for the State of Alaska, is seen in this undated photo. (Courtesy photo)
Alaska Voices: Feeling grateful this Thanksgiving for the COVID vaccines

The COVID vaccines remain our strongest tool in combating the pandemic and helping us return to our lives and the things we love and cherish.

A resident casts their vote in the regular municipal election Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020 at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Voices of the Peninsula: All votes matter

In the beginning, only property-holding white men could vote.

Cristen San Roman. (Photo provided)
Point of View: Is management of Cook Inlet catered to special interest groups?

If these fish are so at risk, why is BOEM able to move forward with lease sale 258?

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Grateful for the hidden ‘good’

Gratitude: Noun The state of being grateful; thankfulness. The state or quality… Continue reading

Homer High School Principal Douglas Waclawski. (Photo provided)
Point of View: What is Homer High School about?

What I consider Homer High’s strength is that we are a place for learning.

UAA Chancellor Sean Parnell. (courtesy photo)
Alaska Voices: Invent your future at UAA

At UAA we’re providing the tools to help students of all ages and skills chart a new course forward.

A registered nurse prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at the pop-up clinic on the Spit on May 27. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Alaska Voices: Vaccination is the still best protection from COVID-19

The Alaska State Medical Association encourages you to protect yourselves and your community from preventable illness by getting recommended vaccines.

(Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
The sad diminishment of Rep. Don Young

Young seems afraid to demand his party leader defend the dignity of the institution he loves.

A “Vote Here” sign is seen at the City of Kenai building on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Clarion file)
Alaska Voices: Restore our strong campaign donation limits

Without campaign spending limits, the ideal of one person, one vote is no longer really true.

The Final Redistricting Map approved for the Anchorage and Matanuska-Susitna area is seen on Nov. 9, 2021. (Map via
Alaska Voices: The Alaska Redistricting Board’s last-minute gerrymandering failed Alaska

Our Constitution outlines rules for a redistricting process designed to uphold public trust.