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Local health leaders urge precautions ahead of Thanksgiving holiday

They're urging for more people to be vaccinated — especially children — to get the vaccination rate near 70%.

Posted: Nov 24, 2021 7:26 PM
Updated: Nov 24, 2021 7:28 PM

About 55% of Alabamians are vaccinated against Covid-19. Local health leaders say that percentage needs to grow, especially as we head into the holidays.

They say rolling up your sleeve and getting your Covid shot is the most important thing you can do right now to keep safe. Most of all, the vaccine can keep you out the hospital and help avoid death from complications of the disease.

Local health leaders say the state's rate could be worse, but Alabamians can do much better. Even though they say it's good to know people are continuously getting vaccinated, it has slowed down.

Dr. Roger Smalligan, regional dean at University of Alabama at Birmingham in Huntsville, said do not wait until it's too late.

"The vaccine is our first defense, and it's so much more effective," Smalligan said. "Do you want to chase a disease and try to make sure you don't get deathly ill and die from Covid, or do you just want to get a vaccine and be protected? To me, that should be an answer."

Smalligan also mentioned it's great that monoclonal antibody treatments are available, and that possibly soon another option will be available in the form of a pill, but getting the shot first​ avoids a lot of hassle.

Smalligan urged those who are vaccinated to schedule their Covid booster shot if they can. He said getting children vaccinated as well will quicken the process of getting back to whatever normal will look like.

As people are gearing up to be with family for the holidays, health leaders urge everyone to remember safety precautions. Dr. Pam Hudson, CEO of Crestwood Medical Center, said not to let your guard down. Even though the rate of infection for Covid-19 is fairly low in Madison County and there's been a very small​ decrease in the number of deaths, it's important to keep everyone safe.

That means still washing or cleaning your hands daily and staying home if you're feeling sick. But, most of all, wearing a mask and keeping social distance if in close quarters with family and friends who do not live with you.

Another option suggested by health officials is celebrating outside if possible, to further lower the risk of spreading the virus that causes Covid-19. The virus is still very real and still transmissible.

"Pass the turkey and not Covid, and don't invite Covid in the first place," Hudson said. "Please, take care of yourselves and your families, enjoy the holiday weekend and have a happy Thanksgiving."

Despite the precautions, Hudson and other officials are still expecting a surge in cases after Thanksgiving, though it remains to be seen how it will compare to last year's. 

With many of the children who participate in family functions now eligible for the vaccine, local and state health leaders are pushing for parents and guardians to protect them by getting them vaccinated.

Before, the older age group was a priority because most already had pre-existing conditions, but with children returning to school and resuming group activities that were on hold last year, they are becoming more vulnerable. Smalligan said doctors are seeing more young people admitted to the hospital, and it's not looking good.

"Because we still do have some children coming into the hospital, becoming very, very sick due to Covid, and you're seeing these long-Covid symptoms in some of the children who've had Covid," Smalligan said. "So, I would really urge families to have their children protected as well. It'll really make you more comfortable as well. You'll have more confidence and be able to be more comfortable in your outings together."

Smalligan said the side effects in children are far less than an adult and the risk of not​ getting it should be a risk you're not willing to take.

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