Updated COVID booster available locally this month

The updated vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months or older

An updated booster vaccination against COVID-19, approved and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week, will be available to residents of the Kenai Peninsula by the end of the month.

According to a Sept. 12 press release from the CDC, the updated vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months or older. The move comes as hospitalizations and deaths attributed to COVID-19 have been rising since July nationwide.

“Vaccination remains the best protection against COVID-19-related hospitalization and death,” the release reads. “If you have not received a COVID-19 vaccine in the past 2 months, get an updated COVID-19 vaccine to protect yourself this fall and winter.”

Amanda McKinley, a public health nurse in Kenai, said that the Public Health Center is expecting to have the updated vaccine available the week of Sept. 25, but said they won’t know for sure when they can start administering doses until they arrive. She said that some local pharmacies were anticipating having the vaccine available as soon as this week.

Walgreens is listed on vaccines.gov as having the booster locally available, and appointments were available Tuesday on their website to receive the vaccine in Soldotna. Walmart’s website said they weren’t in stock yet, but didn’t have any information about when they expect vaccines to be available. Soldotna Professional Pharmacy doesn’t list COVID-19 among its available vaccines, and didn’t respond to a request for information before publication.

Nationwide, hospitalizations and deaths have been trending upward since July 8. As of Sept. 9, new hospitalizations attributed to COVID-19 nationwide have increased from around 6,000 per week to 21,000 per week, according to data from the CDC. In that same period, new hospitalizations in Alaska have only risen from 25 per week to 34.

Because of the end of the federally announced Public Health Emergency in May, the new COVID-19 vaccine will come with a cost. According to a Sept. 14 press release from the CDC, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a Bridge Access Program to provide vaccine coverage for people without insurance who would otherwise lose access to COVID-19 vaccines.

Participants of the Bridge Access Program will be identified on vaccines.gov.

Vaccines will also be available for influenza and for respiratory syncytial virus this fall. According to guidance from the State Department of Health, everyone 6 months old or older should get the flu vaccine, ideally in September or October. The RSV vaccine will be recommended only for those older than 60 years of age, with guidance from the CDC expected on Sept. 22. Additional preventative measures for RSV are recommended for infants.

For more information about vaccines and recommendations in Alaska, visit health.alaska.gov. To find a vaccine appointment, visit vaccines.gov.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.