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YKHC is encouraging everyone who’s eligible to get a COVID-19 booster shot

Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine
Jeff Chen
Alaska Public Media
Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation is encouraging everyone who’s eligible to get a COVID-19 booster shot. The shots are available to people who received their first two doses of the Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago.

YKHC is urging a wide range of people to get these booster shots. YKHC Chief of Staff Dr. Ellen Hodges listed those groups during a virtual event on Oct. 5. It includes all Alaska Natives aged 18 and older.

“Because Alaska Natives have such a high rate of death and hospitalization associated with COVID-19, we encourage all Alaska Natives to receive this COVID-19 booster shot,” Hodges said.

The same goes for people over the age of 65, and for everyone younger than 65 who has a health condition that could be made dangerous by a COVID-19 infection. People whose jobs require public interaction and are at high risk of viral transmission are also asked to get booster shots.

“So this would include health care workers, first responders, people who work in grocery stores, law enforcement, those kinds of individuals, our clergy,” Hodges said.

Find a full list of eligible occupations here.

Additionally, people who are pregnant are at high risk of severe COVID-19 infection and are encouraged to get a booster shot as well.

“Pregnant women have a two to three times higher rate of death and hospitalization from COVID alone, and I think it’s really important to recognize that it can lead to death. It can lead to pre-term birth. It can lead to stillbirth," Hodges said.

People who are breastfeeding are also urged to get a vaccine booster. This week Anchorage Daily News reported that a two-week-old infant was hospitalized in Fairbanks with the virus. Babies are unlikely to be eligible for COVID-19 vaccination for a long time, and Hodges said that vaccination in people who are breastfeeding is one way to protect infants from the virus.

“So if a breastfeeding mom is vaccinated, the antibodies can pass through the breast milk and protect that baby,” Hodges said.

Hodges said that the booster takes time to take effect. About two weeks after being boosted, vaccine antibodies should peak. And regardless of vaccination status, she said that other mitigation measures are still needed.

“I can’t emphasize enough that’s it’s still absolutely critical that we all wear masks,” Hodges said.

That includes indoors with people not from your household, and outdoors when not physically distanced from non-household members.

Side effects from booster shots are similar to ones from initial doses.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has only authorized booster shots for the Pfizer vaccine. It is meeting next week on Oct. 14 and 15 to consider authorizing booster doses for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines. Most people in Bethel received the Pfizer vaccine, while people in Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta villages often received the Moderna vaccine because it’s easier to transport.

To get a Pfizer booster shot in Bethel, fill out a vaccination request form online or call YKHC to schedule an appointment at 907-543-6949. You can also show up as a walk-in on the second floor of the hospital Monday through Friday between 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. YKHC asks that people call or fill out a vaccination request form online beforehand to help them plan how much vaccine to make available, but it’s not required to get a shot.

To get a Pfizer booster shot in a village, fill out YKHC’s vaccination request form online or call 1-800-478-6599 for assistance.

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