Point of View: Vaccination is the still best protection from COVID-19

As Alaskans move indoors with the arrival of winter snows, we reflect on the grief and opportunities of the past year and wonder if we are ready for the long winter. We think about the Alaska bounty of fish, berries and wild game, and we think about sharing our abundance with those we love. In this season of gratitude, we are grateful for our colleagues in medicine and nursing who have worked long shifts in protective equipment trying to save the lives of too many Alaskans sick with COVID-19.

We in the Alaska State Medical Association encourage you to join us and show your gratitude for these health care heroes by protecting yourselves and your community from preventable illness by getting recommended vaccines.

We want to be very clear that the recent conference in Anchorage advocating alternative early treatments for COVID-19 does not represent mainstream medical thought. When we as physicians do our research, we rely on peer-reviewed evidence like that gathered on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website. The scientific evidence is very clear. The three available COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective. They are the best tools we have to prevent COVID-19 infection and especially serious illness, hospitalization and death.

As always, if you have questions about your specific medical situation, talk with your primary care physician or medical practitioner. Here are our recommendations for almost all Alaskans:

Get a COVID-19 vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines are now authorized for everyone ages 5 and up. They are safe and effective for kids, adults and pregnant people; 96% of physicians in America have chosen to get vaccinated and they are getting their children vaccinated.

If you have not gotten your first COVID-19 vaccine, it’s not too late to protect yourself in time for holiday travel and gatherings. Join the hundreds of thousands of Alaska health care workers, military and federal workers and others who are fully vaccinated and well-protected.

If it has been more than six months since you got your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and you are at increased risk, get a booster to strengthen your protection.

If it has been more than two months since you got your J&J/Janssen vaccine, get your booster.

If you already had COVID-19 illness, a vaccine gives you longer-lasting stronger protection than antibodies from the illness. We encourage you to get vaccinated.

Get a flu shot

Influenza has arrived in Alaska and historically takes a big toll on Alaskans’ health. The yearly flu shot is good protection against serious influenza illness and protects you as well as vulnerable elders and immunocompromised people around you.

Catch up on health maintenance

If you put off a mammogram or other cancer screening, this is a good time to catch up.

As representatives of Alaska’s physicians, we wish you a happy and healthy winter season. We extend our gratitude to all Alaskans who are doing your part to keep yourselves and your community healthy.

Janice Sheufelt, M.D., is the President of the Alaska State Medical Association.