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Doctors: Vaccinations, weighing risks of indoor gatherings important this winter

SALT LAKE CITY — With COVID-19 still rampant in Utah, it’s more important than ever for older adults to avoid getting sick. Experts said it’s critical to take precautionary steps now to stay healthy this winter.

Karen Buchi and her husband got the COVID-19 vaccine. “We’re still in the midst of a big surge of COVID in our state, and we need to continue to be protected,” Buchi said.

Doctors agree.

State epidemiologist Dr. Leisha Nolen with the Utah Department of Health says everyone eligible should get the COVID-19 vaccine. “We know vaccinated people are much less likely to have the virus and much, much less likely to spread it on,” Nolen said.

Seniors and those with compromised immune systems should get the booster. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccine protection may lessen over time. Older adults have weaker immune systems, which is why if you’re 65 or older, getting the booster is so important, experts say.

Studies show the vaccine provides increased immune response and improved protection against COVID-19, including the delta variant, according to the CDC.

Doctors with the Utah Department of Health also recommend the flu shot, the pneumonia vaccine for people over 65 and the shingles vaccine for people 50 and up.

As for holiday gatherings, “There’s a lot of COVID circulating in the community. So, going indoors, there’s a very high likelihood there’s going to be someone in there that might have the virus and spread it,” Nolen said.

She said smaller get-togethers outside are better, and make sure to ask the host about precautions.

“It’s your personal right to be able to know what risk you’re exposing yourself to,” Nolen said.

Paul Harvey got his flu shot and his COVID-19 booster. “I think the science is there. It’s not a matter of believing, it’s accepting. I’ve kind of come to that conclusion. So, I’ve accepted it and grateful we got it,” said Harvey, who is 65.

He’s being proactive to protect himself and others. “Grandkids, there’s some concern about transmission to them and vice versa,” he said. By taking precautions now, he hopes to stay healthy through winter.

Right now all three major vaccines have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for boosters — Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer. Salt Lake County and other local health departments are offering COVID-19 booster clinics.

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