Dr. Tracey Smith Families keep track of first milestones – especially during the holidays. Thanks to our persistence and advancements – most notably the availability of a vaccine against COVID-19 – this holiday season will be one of many firsts. The first gathering since everyone was fully vaccinated. The first-time locking eyes without a screen as some travel restrictions have been lifted. The first-time meeting since illness confined us into isolation. The first-time being together since the virus took more than we ever expected it could. Tremendous progress has been made but for many families, there will be empty chairs this season. As we look to keep our loved ones safe and healthy, and because we are still living through a pandemic, consider these four points before making holiday plans:
Vaccines are now readily available for 5 – 11-year-olds throughout Illinois. While time is running out for kids to be fully vaccinated before most holiday gatherings, every bit of protection helps. Visit vaccines.gov or contact your local Pandemic Health Navigator partner organization to find an appointment near you.
Data show breakthrough cases among vaccinated adults increase the further removed they are from their last COVID-19 shot. Not only are booster shots now available, but Federal health regulators have also said those eligible to receive them do not need to worry about which company manufactured their first dose(s).
The increased risk of severe illness and pregnancy complications related to COVID-19 infection among pregnant people make vaccination for this population more urgent than ever. Data show the benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine for pregnant people outweigh any known or potential risks which is why the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.), among other health experts, are strongly encouraging expectant parents to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Holidays can be a time of large gatherings and people being in close proximity of one another. As you look to the celebrations ahead, consider additional precautions like avoiding crowded indoor spaces before travel or taking a test in advance of gathering to reduce further risk.
In-person visits might also allow more of us to comfortably take the next step in ending the pandemic: Talking about it. The COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted traumas on everyone, and few of us experienced them the same way. Many lost friends and loved ones, faced increase stress and felt increased isolation. Talking about those experiences creates an open dialogue we all need. Vaccines and community health do not have to be hot-button issues. We encourage these conversations as a way for families and communities to fully understand each other and how we can advance together. It might be the first-time we talk about making more normal times last a long time.