Health experts say to plan now to be safe at holiday gatherings

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 5:33 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - With the holidays right around the corner, many people are wondering what they can do to make gatherings safer. State Epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin said one thing that can help is planning ahead.

If you aren’t vaccinated but would like to be fully protected by the Christmas holidays, McLaughlin said it’s best to get those shots as soon as possible. It takes two weeks after the last dose of the vaccine to be considered fully vaccinated.

For the Pfizer vaccine, that’s a total of 35 days from the time of the fist shot, 42 total days for the Moderna vaccine and 14 days after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. McLaughlin said if people are a little bit behind on those dates, they’ll still get strong protection by the Christmas holidays.

If someone is due for a booster shot, McLaughlin said it’s also a good idea to get that as soon as possible. He said new research shows it takes seven days for the immune system to rev up after receiving a booster shot.

“Booster doses are now available for everyone aged 18 and up who has had their primary series,” he said. “As long as it’s been at least six months since the second dose of an MRNA vaccine or at least two months since their J&J vaccine.”

Beyond vaccinations, there are other ways to play it safe, especially leading up to a holiday gathering. McLaughlin suggests being extra careful for at least 10 days prior.

“Make sure you are wearing your masks in indoor public spaces, you are avoiding crowds and you are maintaining good social distance,” he said. “That will decrease your chances of coming into contact with the virus.”

One thing that wasn’t widely available last year but that people can take advantage of now are home testing kits. The rapid antigen kits are considered very accurate if the result is positive. A second test, which the kits contain, can help confirm a negative result. McLaughlin said people might want to ask guests to test before coming to an event.

McLaughlin said anyone with symptoms should not be hosting or attending a holiday gathering. Instead, they need to test as soon as possible and isolate until the results come back.

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