With the holidays here, medial professionals say now is a good time to get your COVID-19 vaccine or booster to protect your family.  Rural families will gather over the holiday season, just as the U.S. faces a potential increase of COVID-19 cases, according to Dr. Michael Stevens, West Virginia University System Health Care Epidemiologist, in Morgantown, WV.


"Overall, there's been a general decline in activity over the last four to six weeks. However, really, we're worried looking at Western Europe that we're going to see a spike in activity over the next say four to six to eight weeks. So, things are better than they were, but activity is going to pick up, and certainly, COVID is still out there.”


Stevens said getting the vaccine or booster now will help to protect you if another wave comes.


"It makes a lot of sense to take advantage of a time when there's a little bit less activity, go get the vaccine, make sure that you're up to date, so that when activity picks up again, you're going to have whatever immunity is provided from the vaccine," he noted.  "And right now, because of the bivalent boosters, anybody who's two months out from their last vaccine, essentially is eligible to get that by bivalent booster. And the advantage to that is that booster protects you against some of the newer variants that are circulating now.”


With the holiday season, Steven said being vaccinated helps protect the family members you will be visiting.


"So, when we think about gathering around our family members and our friends, we don't really know who is super high risk.  You could have somebody in your family who's immunocompromised, we know that people who are older, particularly those that are over 60 or 65 are very high risk for severe illness.  And we get vaccinated to protect ourselves, there's a real advantage there, but definitely to protect those around us who are vulnerable.  And so, I think the holidays is a reminder, we all want to spend that time together, we all want to be around our loved ones. We can show them love by not giving them COVID.”


And there is a lot of data proving the safety of getting children vaccinated.


“Anyone over six months of age and up can get the vaccine now and anyone over five years of age and up can get one of those bivalent boosters, and there's a lot of advantages to getting kids vaccinated. Overall, COVID doesn't tend to be very severe in kids, it can be, but again, our kids are going to bring it home, they're going to potentially expose somebody who's immunocompromised, somebody who's older and they could potentially develop severe illness.”


Stevens added there are many ways to find a vaccine near you.


“You can go and Google where can I find a COVID vaccine and you can find some really nice resources, your local pharmacy likely can give you the COVID vaccine, you could sign up or walk in for it, same thing with the flu shots. And so, I think anybody who really wants one of these things can find it pretty easily.  You can also go to vaccines.gov if you have access to the internet.”


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