COVID vaccine booster shots available in Norton Sound region

A healthcare worker administering the Covid vaccine to a patient..

Norton Sound Health Corporation now offers COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to those at least six months past their second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.

The booster shots will keep vaccine protection at peak effectiveness.

“The booster shot will help your body to increase that number of antibodies in your bloodstream, which will then increase the protection that you get from having the vaccines,” NSHC’s Dr. Tim Lemaire said.

There’s nothing wrong with the vaccine; this is just a normal part of how vaccines work.

“We’ve all received tetanus shots. We all have tetanus antibodies in our blood. But unless we step on a rusty nail, that number of antibodies against tetanus slowly declines, which is why we need a booster shot every 10 years or so. … This is the same idea,” Lemaire said.

There is no information at this time about whether booster doses might become available for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, though that might change in the coming weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Sept. 7, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for a moratorium on vaccine boosters until the end of the year. It would be more beneficial to help less-wealthy countries vaccinate their populations, he said.

The nature of the Norton Sound and Bering Strait region means that keeping immunity at peak levels is very important here.

“We determined that due to our remote location, the difficulty in getting folks out of our region if they are to get severely sick, as well as the increasing cases in Alaska, we felt like it would be prudent to offer it to our community,” Lemaire said.

Booster doses are available at the Norton Sound Health Corporation’s pharmacy in Nome, and village residents can call their local clinics to schedule appointments.

As of Sept. 10, there were 39 active COVID-19 cases in the Norton Sound and Bering Strait region: 11 in Unalakleet, four in Nome, five in Stebbins, three in St. Michael, five in Koyuk, five in Shaktoolik, three in Savoonga, one in Brevig Mission and two in Elim. Stebbins, St. Michael and Little Diomede remain in lockdown until two weeks have passed with no new cases in their respective populations.

Image at top: COVID-19 vaccines being administered in Savoonga. Photo by Sophia DeSalvo, KNOM (2021).