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(WHNT) — Alabama health officials are urging the public to get vaccinated and take safety precautions against COVID-19 ahead of the holiday season.

In his December message, State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said as people spend more time in close quarters during the holidays, it’s important to mitigate the exposure to COVID-19 and other contagious diseases.

“Regrettably, the 2020 holiday season ended with a surge of COVID-19 illnesses and deaths,” Harris stated. “Friends and family may be careless or inconsistent in following prevention measures as they celebrate.”

“Of paramount importance in preventing COVID-19 is for all eligible individuals to initiate vaccination, complete their primary series, and get a booster shot to protect against this highly contagious virus,” Harris continued.

Harris listed other preventative measures to mitigate exposure, including masking in indoor places, isolating yourself or family members when sick, frequent hand washing, good ventilation, and seeking medical attention if you were infected.

Dr. Wes Stubblefield, a medical officer for the Alabama Department of Public Health, stated Alabama has a widespread availability of vaccines.

“The best way to protect yourself, your children, and your loved ones is to get vaccinated,” Stubblefield said shortly after the new Omicron variant was announced. “The vaccines are safe and effective and provide a robust protection against the original virus and the variants currently in circulation in Alabama.”

Harris concluded his December message by reminding the public that the COVID-19 pandemic “is not yet over.”

“Carefully consider your actions and be consistent in maintaining good COVID-19 prevention habits in addition to vaccination,” Harris concluded. “During this holiday season, care for others, and keep the health and safety of young children, people of advanced age, and those with underlying risk factors in your family and community in mind.”

For more information on COVID-19 in Alabama, visit the Alabama Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 Dashboard.