DHSS Press Release: Administration of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine paused for national safety review

April 13, 2021 ANCHORAGE – Out of an abundance of caution, vaccine providers in Alaska have been asked to pause all use of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine (Janssen) immediately, in accordance with a joint announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration this morning.

All upcoming appointments with the J&J vaccine are being canceled in Alaska. This is because CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is reviewing six cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in women aged 18-48 years after vaccination with the J&J vaccine. Symptoms in these patients began 6-13 days following vaccination.

ACIP will meet tomorrow, April 14, to review the relevant data. Meanwhile, administration of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will continue both in Alaska and nationally. The Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines are considered extremely safe and effective.

Anyone who was scheduled to receive the J&J vaccine in Alaska this week should be aware that their appointment will be canceled or postponed. If you need help rescheduling your appointment to instead receive one of the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna), please call the Alaska Vaccine Helpline at 1-907-646-3322 or toll-free 1-833-4-VAXLINE (1-833-482-9546).

“We take every vaccine adverse event seriously. This pause is an important part of the process that ensures the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines,” said Dr. Joe McLaughlin, Alaska’s state epidemiologist. “This is how our safety checks work. DHSS is notifying vaccine providers via email and phone calls this morning and is also providing information to all health care providers. Alaskans should also know this appears to be a very rare event, with six cases out of 6.8 million doses of J&J vaccine administered to date.”

As of April 12, there have been 11,178 Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses administered in Alaska out of 35,500 doses allocated in the state. This vaccine has been delivered to a number of sites in Alaska, including pharmacies, outpatient clinics, federally qualified health centers and local public health authorities.

The six U.S. cases were flagged in the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS), a component of national post-licensure vaccine safety monitoring. None of these six cases occurred in Alaska. Anyone who has received the vaccine who develops severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider or seek medical care.

Health care providers are asked to report adverse events to VAERS.

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April 13: MODERATE Alert Level

Sitka’s current COVID-19 alert level is MODERATE.

The following mitigation guidance is recommended:

•Masks/face coverings encouraged when 6 feet of distance can’t be maintained from others, this is for outdoors and indoor public places

•Maintain physical distancing of 6 feet

•Outdoor events are encouraged; gatherings of more than 100 people indoors is not recommended

•Restaurants: indoor capacity reduced to maintain 6 feet of distance, delivery or carryout preferred, employees encouraged to mask

•Bars: indoor capacity reduced to 50%, encourage outdoor serving – must meet requirements of SGC 10.44.080(A), employees encouraged to mask

Stay up-to-date by visiting the CBS COVID-19 Dashboard at https://cityofsitka.org/. The Dashboard is updated weekdays by 5pm.

Arriving in Sitka from another state or country?

Health Advisory No. 2 addresses International and Interstate Travel. To mitigate the transmission and control the spread of the COVID-19 virus, testing is strongly recommended. Testing related to travel is free of charge for Alaska residents and non-resident travelers.

Alaska resident and non-resident travelers arriving in Alaska from outside the state should consider one of the following options:

1.Pre-travel molecular- based test with negative results taken within 72 hours of departure, enter results into the Alaska Travel Portal, take a second test taken between five and 14 days after arrival at the Sitka Rocky Gutierrez Airport (testing hours 5:30pm to 6:30pm daily)

2.Pre-travel molecular-based test without results taken within 72 hours of departure, enter proof of taking test, follow strict social distancing until test results are available, upload test results into Alaska Travel Portal when received, obtain a second test between five and 14 days after arrival at the Sitka Rocky Gutierrez Airport (testing hours 5:30pm to 6:30pm daily)

3.If a non-resident traveler arrives in Alaska without proof of a pre-travel test, they should test at the Sitka Rocky Gutierrez Airport upon arrival, follow strict social distancing until test results are available, and obtain a second test between five and 14 days after arrival.

For Alaska residents who travel outside of Alaska for less than 72 hours, the traveler should obtain a test upon return to Alaska at the Sitka Rocky Gutierrez Airport and self-monitor for any symptoms for 14 days after arrival.

For Alaska residents and non-resident travelers, with a prior confirmed positive result 90 days of departure, a test is not needed if the traveler provide proof of a previously positive test within 90 days of departure AND the traveler is currently asymptomatic.

Fully-vaccinated travelers should follow pre-travel testing protocols, but do not need to follow strict social distancing while they are awaiting test results. Fully-vaccinated is defined as more than two weeks following receipt of the second dose in a two-dose series, or more than two weeks following receipt of one dose of a single-dose series.

To read Health Advisory No. 2 in its entirety, visit: https://covid19.alaska.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/02.14.21-Health-Advisory-2-International-and-Interstate-Travel.pdf

For the complete list of COVID-19 Response and Recovery Health Advisories, visit: https://covid19.alaska.gov/health-advisories/

Alaska Department of Health & Social Services Weekly Case Update for March 28-April 3, 2021

Brief Status Report

  • Virus transmission increased for the second consecutive week with higher case rates and test positivity. Anchorage, Fairbanks, and the Matanuska-Susitna regions saw a sustained rise in case rates, while Juneau, Kenai Peninsula, Northern Southeast, and Southern Southeast regions had higher rates than last week.
  • Anyone 16 years or older who lives or works in Alaska is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Alaska was the first state to offer vaccines to everyone over a certain age without prerequisites.
  • More vaccinations lead to fewer COVID-19 infections, illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths. Vaccinations are the key to ending this pandemic.
  • Alaska is currently the fourth most vaccinated state per capita. 48.25% of the State/IHS vaccine allocation so far has been administered.
  • DHSS encourages all Alaskans who are currently eligible for COVID-19 vaccination to make appointments as soon as possible by visiting covidvax.alaska.gov or by calling 1-907-646-3322. The call line is staffed Monday-Friday from 9AM-6:30PM and 9AM-4:30PM on weekends. The call line can also be used to answer general questions about vaccine safety and to request appointments to receive a specific type of vaccine. Alaskans receiving health services through a Tribal Health Organization or the Department of Defense should contact those organizations directly to determine their eligibility.
  • One new case of a COVID variant of concern was detected in Alaska during the past week.

What Alaskans Can Do

  • Every Alaskan who chooses to get vaccinated, wear a mask, stay 6 feet from others, and avoid indoor gatherings helps protect themselves and the health of all Alaskans. These are our best tools to decrease the chance of a new variant entering Alaska and spreading.
  • Fully vaccinated people can visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or socially distancing. They can also visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 without wearing masks or socially distancing. Vaccinated people can also refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure to someone with COVID-19 so long as the vaccinated person is asymptomatic. We expect that CDC guidelines for people who have been vaccinated will continue to be updated as new evidence becomes available
  • To stop COVID-19, including new strains of virus, from coming into Alaska and spreading, testing within 72 hours before returning to Alaska or on arrival and then strict social distancing until the test result is available is recommended. A second test 5-14 days after arrival is also recommended if the traveler is not fully vaccinated. As of Jan 26, 2021, the CDC requires international travelers to show proof of a negative test from within the last 72 hours on arrival back in the US.
  • CDC guidelines recommend regular asymptomatic testing for critical infrastructure workers and other groups at higher risk for COVID-19.
  • Alaskans should get tested immediately at the first sign of any symptoms. Tests work best when obtained promptly after symptoms start. Testing early helps people know if they are positive quickly and helps prompt them to take immediate precautions to minimize the risk of transmitting the virus to others.
  • Most Alaskans get COVID-19 from a friend, family member, or coworker. Many Alaskans who are diagnosed with COVID-19 report that they went to social gatherings, community events, church services, and other social venues while they were contagious but before they knew they had the virus.
COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Update

Case Trends and Predictions

  • 1,160 cases were reported in Alaskans last week. This was a 6.2% decrease from the week before, however it is the second straight week of rising rates in the Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Matanuska-Susitna Regions.
  • 14-day average daily case rates were similar or higher in most regions of Alaska compared with last week. The Anchorage case rate increased from 22.0 last week to 25.7 this week. This is the highest case rate since mid-January. Fairbanks North Star Borough increased from 13.7 to 16.2 this week. Case rates in Matanuska-Susitna Region continued to rise to 49.2, the highest level this region has seen in 2021.
  • The Northwest Region decreased to from 4.5 to 3.2. The Interior Region except Fairbanks decreased from 40.9 to 30.0.
  • Case rates increased in Kenai Peninsula Borough, from 6.7 to 11.8, Northern Southeast Region from 6.3 to 7.4, Southern Southeast Region from 4.7 to 5.4, and Juneau City from 3.8 to 5.4. Case rates slightly decreased in Northwest Region from 4.5 to 3.2.
  • The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region daily case rate decreased for a second week to from 26.4 to 25.9.
  • The estimated statewide daily growth rate as of April 5, 2021 is 0.9% and new cases are expected to double every 77.2 days based on current modeling.
COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Update

Regional Case Trends

Behavioral Health RegionCase rates Feb 21–Feb 27Case rates Feb 28–Mar 6Case rates Mar 7– Mar 13Case rates Mar 14– Mar 20Case rates Mar 21– Mar 27Case rates Mar 28– Apr 3
Anchorage Municipality12.615.016.516.622.025.7
Fairbanks North Star Borough15.015.113.711.713.716.2
Interior Region except Fairbanks15.
Juneau City and Borough8.
Kenai Peninsula Borough5.
Matanuska-Susitna Region35.936.538.536.740.949.2
Northern Southeast Region27.032.617.
Northwest Region4.
Southern Southeast Region18.
Southwest Region4.
Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region21.516.229.734.126.425.9

Vaccines Status Update

COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Update
 Reported vaccinations as of April 5, 2021.

  • The State of Alaska is working with federal, local, Tribal, and military partners to ensure that the distribution of vaccine goes as quickly and smoothly as possible.
  • Anyone 16 years or older who lives or works in Alaska is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. All registration for vaccines should go through the registration system on covidvax.alaska.gov . Appointments can also be made by calling 1-907-646-3322. The call line is staffed Monday-Friday from 9AM-6:30PM and 9AM-4:30PM on weekends. The call line can also be used to answer general questions about vaccine safety and to request appointments to receive a specific type of vaccine.
  • On April 5, the New York Times vaccination tracker had Alaska as the tenth highest state by percent of the population that has received at least one shot, at 35%, and fourth for population that has received two shots, at 24%. The Alaska vaccine tracker is available online as is a vaccine dashboard for more up-to-date data.
  • There is a several day lag in reporting some vaccinations so the dashboard does not yet reflect all vaccinations that have been given.
  • Three vaccines are currently available in Alaska: Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are mRNA vaccines. The Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine is an adenovirus-vectored technology.  
  • There are no plans to mandate a vaccine at the state level.
  • More vaccinations lead to fewer COVID-19 infections, illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths.
  • Healthcare providers play a key role in building public confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine. In addition to their roles as health advisers, protectors, and advocates, healthcare personnel were the first group offered COVID-19 vaccinations. Health workers are a trusted voice that can have a powerful influence on their families and communities when it comes to getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

New Cases, Hospitalizations, and Deaths

  • During the week of March 28 through April 3, 2021 1,160 cases were reported in Alaskans last week. This is a 6.2% decrease from the week before, for a total of 61,283 cumulative cases reported in Alaskans.
  • Cumulative hospitalizations increased to 1,370 with 10 reported as occurring this week. Hospitalization reports often lag and only 1,356 hospitalizations were reported at this time last week, so there are 14 hospitalizations newly reported this week including ones that began during previous weeks.
  • No new deaths among Alaska residents were reported this week (309 total). It is common to take more than a week for a death to be reported, and deaths that occurred during Mar 28–Apr 3 may be reported in future as death certificates are reviewed.
  • 62 new nonresident cases were identified this week for a total of 2,600 cases.
COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Update

Variant Tracking

1 new COVID variant cases were detected during the week of March 28-April 3

Cumulative list of variants of concern identified in Alaska:

Test datePatient CityAcquisitionVariantWeek identified
12/20/2020AnchorageTravelUK/ B1.1.71/24-1/30
1/13/2021AnchorageTravelUK/ B1.1.72/14-2/20
2/8/2021AnchorageCommunity acquiredBrazil/ P.12/21-2/27
2/8/2021AnchorageSecondaryBrazil/ P.12/28-3/6
2/15/2021Eagle RiverSecondaryBrazil/ P.12/28-3/6
2/15/2021AnchorageCommunity acquiredBrazil/ P.12/28-3/6
2/15/2021Eagle RiverCommunity acquiredBrazil/ P.12/28-3/6
3/11/2021WasillaTravelUK/ B1.1.73/28-4/3
  • The CDC has added B.1.427 and B.1.429 to the list of variants of concern. Alaska is adjusting surveillance practices and public outputs, however B.1.427 and B.1.429 cases are not currently included in this summary.
  • Alaska’s Public Health Laboratories continue to monitor for variants of concern as well as for other variants of interest.

Health Care Capacity

  • On April 5, 36 Alaskans with confirmed COVID-19 were hospitalized and 8 were reported to require a mechanical ventilator.
  • Hospital staffing can change quickly, particularly if a community has many health workers impacted by COVID-19.

Total Confirmed COVID-19 Beds Occupied

COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Update

Cases by Week Reported and Age Group

COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Update

Cases by Week Reported and Race

COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Update

Cases by Week Reported and Region

COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Update

Additional informational resources:

Steps To Take If Household Member Is Sick With COVID-19

If someone in your household is sick with COVID-19, keep them separated from others as much as possible. Wear a mask and stay at least 6 feet apart. Also:

• If possible, have only one person providing care for the sick person.

• If you need to share a bedroom or bathroom, use fans and open windows and doors to improve airflow.

• If you are sick, do not help prepare food.

• Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces like door handles.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

More tips: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/living-in-close-quarters.html?fbclid=IwAR1i2T1mBqcjm_CDgHIqsGlP2Pc_8VFE2l-gBoyuA6itdOHjaerBKbkTJQY

Reminder: Clean High Touch Surfaces

COVID-19 spreads mostly through close contact between people, but it is possible for people to be infected by touching surfaces or objects covered with germs. Protect yourself and others from COVID-19:

• Wear a mask with multiple layers that fits snugly against your face.

• Wash hands often for 20 seconds using soap or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

• Clean high touch surfaces using soap and water or detergent.

Learn more at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/disinfecting-your-home.html?fbclid=IwAR1FuuQzFv_3-94i68cXPVZurM_EckZWi_mvhqloOpTizGiJDyWepBhQmdQ

Updated CDC Travel Guidance for Fully Vaccinated Travelers

Updated CDC Travel Guidance for Fully Vaccinated Travelers

➡️Fully vaccinated travelers are less likely to get and spread COVID-19.

➡️People who are fully vaccinated with an FDA-authorized vaccine can travel safely within the United States:
▪️Fully vaccinated travelers do not need to get tested before or after travel unless their destination requires it
▪️Fully vaccinated travelers do not need to self-quarantine

➡️Fully vaccinated travelers should still follow CDC’s recommendations for traveling safely including:
▪️Wear a mask over your nose and mouth
▪️Stay 6 feet from others and avoid crowds
▪️Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer

Learn more at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-during-covid19.html

Celebrating Easter Safely

Need Easter inspiration? Consider these COVID-conscious gift ideas to protect yourself and your loved ones.

🧴 Soap or hand sanitizer to clean hands often.
😷 A new face mask for when in public settings.
💌 A special note or card telling your loved one(s) how much you care.

Check out the CDC’s guidance on how to celebrate safely for more tips: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays/winter.html?fbclid=IwAR0YuEy16jPdZilOsaha6YXPKjH1Qfn8UMXfXutVpd5nCUxWf7HvCV9hCmg

And also CDC’s guidance for fully vaccinated people: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated.html?fbclid=IwAR0iqpet_WMAanIpGg602ewImabugdDOYCPE-N5gc96biWCzuW0t2sc0GE0