Updated COVID boosters will be available to Alaskans next week

a small vial sits on a table
A nurse prepares to administer a dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine at a clinic in Anchorage. (Hannah Lies/Alaska Public Media)

Alaskans will have access to updated COVID boosters next week, according to state health officials.

In an interview, state physician Dr. Lisa Rabinowitz said the state expects to receive doses early next week and local providers will start distributing them soon after.

“They’ll be widely available across the state in healthcare centers, public health clinics, pharmacies, and then there are pop up clinics that are scheduled in some communities throughout the state,” Rabinowitz said.

The state is working with tribal partners to distribute boosters in rural communities, and companies like Fairweather will set up clinics in urban areas. Clinic locations will be listed on vaccines.gov.

The CDC recommended the updated COVID boosters this week. They target two versions of the virus: the original strain and the omicron variant. 

“Think of it as teaching your body two languages instead of one,” said Alaska’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink. “It’s telling it two different ways to look at this virus.”

This is the first booster available to all adults younger than 50 since November 2021.

“We know that many people at this point have had waning immunity,” Zink said. “This is an updated tool to remind their system of this virus and be able to take it down.”

Moderna’s booster is for adults 18 and older, and Pfizer’s is for those 12 and up. You’re only eligible if it’s been two months since your last COVID vaccine.

You don’t have to wait two months after a COVID infection, but it might be a good idea, Zink said. Infections give you increased protection for a few months, and waiting on the booster can help prolong your immunity. If you have certain risk factors, that guidance might change.

Zink said if you’re unsure about timing, talk to your doctor or other local provider.

Free at-home COVID tests from the federal government are no longer available. The program was suspended Friday due to a lack of funding from Congress.

At-home tests are available for purchase from pharmacies. Insurance may partially or fully cover the cost of tests. And Rabinowitz said the state still has tests to send to public health clinics, libraries and other community partners.

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