Health officials warn that the Omicron variant is coming to Alaska
by CARLOS MATías
The Omicron variant of Covid-19 is already in the United States and will irrevocably arrive in Alaska. The state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, and other health officials warn Alaskans to be prepared, “but do not become overwhelmed,” Zink says. They insist on the importance of vaccinations, even though there have been some cases of people who have been infected despite being vaccinated.
Omicron is the most contagious variant of Covid-19 of all those that have emerged so far. Its discoverer, South African doctor Angelique Coetzee, says its symptoms are “very mild.” But Anne Zink acknowledges that “it is so different” from previous variants and “a lot is unknown about it.”
Sol de Medianoche has tried to interview Dr. Anne Zink about these aspects and about the disinformation and false news that are spread to seed fear and increase confusion. Instead, we heard back from Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Communications Director, Clinton Bennett.
What responsibility do we journalists, and the media have in raising public awareness of the importance of vaccines? This question is best answered by your newsroom and the journalistic ethics your organization follows or if you need guidance, you could reach out to a national group like the National Press Club or the Society of Professional Journalists. The role of the media in sharing accurate information about vaccines is important.
What mistakes are we making in reporting, or misreporting, about the pandemic? I don’t know what mistakes you may or may not be making, but the hope of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) is that journalists report from reputable sources and follow guidance from DHSS, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and help the public understand the science that is being shared.
What is the responsibility of politicians such as Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson, and others who are reluctant, even opposed, to vaccines, as Donald Trump once was, or as Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy may now be? These questions are best asked of these individual people, or perhaps a political science professor. What can, and should, the scientific community and health professionals, like you, do to encourage people to get vaccinated? Continue to listen to concerned Alaskans, factually address misinformation and disinformation, and continue to share that the decision to not get vaccinated is not a risk-free decision, along with it comes the risk of COVID without the protection that vaccines provide.
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