COVID boosters soon available through SEARHC

The Wrangell Medical Clinic expects to receive doses of the new COVID booster this week or next, according to Randi Yancey, medical office coordinator at the clinic. Both the Pfizer and Moderna boosters will be available once the shipment arrives.

The bivalent booster provides an immune response that is “broadly protective” against COVID-19, the Delta variant, and the BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of the Omicron variant, according to a recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration press release.

As the original Coronavirus has mutated over time, the original vaccine has become less and less effective at preventing infection and symptomatic illness, Dr. Joe McLaughlin, state epidemiologist, told the Anchorage Daily News last week. The original vaccines also have become less effective at preventing more severe illness, “although it’s still quite effective at that,” he said.

“It’s in the pipeline, we should be seeing it in the next two weeks,” Dr. Elliot Bruhl, SEARHC senior vice president and chief medical officer, told the Sitka Sentinel. “We’re going to provide it at all of our outpatient locations.”

The FDA authorized the doses for distribution on Aug. 31.

The Pfizer booster has been approved for individuals 12 years of age or older, while the Moderna booster has been approved for individuals 18 years of age or older, according to a recent FDA press release. The boosters are available at no cost anyone in the United States who meets these age requirements, regardless of health insurance or immigration status. People have to wait two months after receiving a booster or COVID vaccination before they are eligible to get the newest booster.

To schedule a vaccine appointment, call the Wrangell Medical front desk at (907) 874-7000.

Eligible individuals can also sign up using the registration form on the SEARHC website at

Last week, the BA.5 Omicron variant made up 88.7% of new COVID cases nationwide while BA.4 and BA.4.6 made up about 11%, according to CDC data published on Aug. 26. The new booster targets these specific strains.

The Wrangell community level of COVID-19 infections was medium as of last Thursday, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that high-risk individuals mask indoors.

The state health department in its weekly update Sept. 7 reported 121 cases of COVID in Wrangell in the past 60 days, though just 21 new infections in the past 30 days. At-home test results are not included in those numbers.

In his interview with the Sitka Sentinel, Bruhl also emphasized the importance of staying up-to-date on seasonal flu vaccinations in addition to receiving COVID-19 boosters. “Those are just as important if not more important,” he said.

The seasonal flu causes “millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and tens of thousands of deaths every year in the United States,” according to CDC estimates.


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