Alaska health officials urge vaccinations as omicron spreads

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska health officials are urging people to get vaccines and boosters as the omicron variant continues to spread across the nation.

Alaska has no confirmed cases of the variant, but officials want residents to be prepared.

“We know a lot about COVID, we were expecting this,” said Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer. “We continue to learn from around the world.”

Zink said Alaskans should get vaccinated for COVID-19 even though data on omicron’s ability to possibly evade vaccine immunity is still being examined, the Juneau Empire reported.

“Imperfect protection is better than no protection at all,” Zink said.

Zink said COVID-19 cases in Alaska dropped by 27% from the previous week.

President Joe Biden announced a plan Thursday to expand access to at-home testing kits, which city officials in Juneau began doing in November.

Zink said the state’s hospitals are still full with COVID-19 patients and others with unrelated health issues, but that the rate of coronavirus hospitalizations was dropping.

Additional health care workers were brought to the state in September but many of those contracts are ending, said Gene Wiseman, section chief for the Department of Health and Social Services Division of Public Health.

Wiseman said the state is working to ensure hospitals remain staffed.