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Health Team

As cases rise and holidays approach, health experts pleading for people to get vaccinated

Posted November 16, 2021 10:21 p.m. EST
Updated November 17, 2021 6:41 a.m. EST

As Thanksgiving approaches, health experts are sounding the alarm about about another surge of coronavirus cases, especially because a large portion of the state's population still isn't vaccinated.

Health experts said some people are also confused about whether they qualify for a booster, and that confusion could be behind the uptick in cases. But doctors say boosters are very important, especially as the holiday season approaches.

"It's really too late to get vaccinated to become fully protected for the Thanksgiving holiday, but you would be just in time essentially to become fully vaccinated for the Christmas and New Year holiday," said Dr. David Weber, a professor of epidemiology and infectious diseases at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Weber urged people to be careful with their holiday plans and which people they plan to spend time with.

"I'm very excited. I'm a very family person," said Ajenae Barrier. "Last year, we each stayed at our own house. We didn't do a big house gathering like we usually do. So this year, we're doing that again."

The difference this year is the Delta variant, but health experts said the COVID-19 vaccine and boosters can take it on.

The bigger problem is that around 30 percent of people in the United States are not vaccinated.

"[The] Delta variant is much more infectious than other variants. [It] constitutes 100 percent of our cases," said Weber. "You are putting yourself at high risk if you're not fully vaccinated, or some risk even if you are, or if you're immunocompromised."

Dr. Lisa Gralinski with the University of Chapel Hill's Gillings School of Global Public Health said, for people who are vaccinated, the first two shots can only last so long.

That's why Gralinski said she's urging those who are eligible to get a booster.

"If you are eligible for a booster right now, I say, please go get one ... this is a really important part of immunity for our entire community and trying to keep people as safe as possible," she added.

Tuesday marked the first time in a while that the percent of positive tests coming back was above 7%, clocking in at 7.8%., and health experts said the holidays could make that number go higher.

"We remain at very high levels and I do expect to see some surge. I'm very worried we will have large numbers of influenza on top of COVID," said Weber.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends the COVID-19 vaccine booster for people at least 18 years old and working in high risk settings, are immunocompromised or 65 years old and up.

"We can largely eliminate serious COVID [illness] by accepting the large vaccine rates that defeated polio and measles in the past," said Weber.

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