Now is the time to get older family members vaccinated if you see them on Thanksgiving.

As the holiday season approaches, it can be tempting to skip a few items on your to-do list. After all, getting together with loved ones takes a lot of work and preparation: confirming everyone is on the same page about where and when to meet, planning who will bring what food, and making sure you have all your groceries. before the Thanksgiving shopping rush. Some things are bound to slip through the cracks, so consider this a reminder to make sure the new bivalent COVID-19 vaccine is not one of them.

If you’re planning on seeing loved ones for Turkey Day, you really shouldn’t delay vaccinations and help older family members or people with limited mobility get their boosters, too. Why? Because it can take up to 14 days for our bodies to build up maximum protection against the new boosters, which are more effective at combating highly infectious omicron variants than previous COVID-19 vaccines, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “The vaccine is a booster for your immune system,” William Schaffner, MD, professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told SELF. “The immune system needs to speed up. And then, when it works, it produces antibodies, these protective proteins that circulate in the blood. But it takes a little time. »

For that reason, adds Dr. Schaffner, you should go ahead and get your booster this week if you’re going to attend a large indoor gathering on Thanksgiving Day. But don’t stop there, he says: you need to make sure everyone involved is considering doing the same.

As SELF previously reported, a surprisingly low number of Americans have received the updated reminder so far: just 7.3%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The numbers are even bad among those over 65 – only about 20% of them have received a bivalent booster. Since people in this age group are much more at risk across the board – more likely to need a ventilator; more likely to spend time hospitalized and/or in the intensive care unit; and more likely to die if they contract COVID-19 – it is even more important that they get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Getting vaccinated can be particularly difficult for people who are not tech-savvy (as it can be difficult for them to locate a nearby pharmacy and book an appointment online) and/or for anyone who cannot leave his home easily. So when you’re texting the group chat to make sure everyone’s up to date, ask if anyone (or anyone’s parents) needs help getting their reminder. “There are so many people who are disabled or housebound,” says Dr. Schaffner. “Ask: how can we provide them with the reminder? »

If you live away from home and can’t physically take your parents or other loved ones to get you boosted this week, try contacting their local health department. “Many health services [set up] home vaccination services,” says Dr. Schaffner. Granted, some of these programs have been cut due to a lack of funding, he adds, but some are still operational, so it’s worth calling to see if your family members can be stimulated in the comfort of their home.

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