COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) — As the holiday season approaches, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is encouraging people to update their immunizations. 

The fall and winter seasons are when people are most at risk for seasonal viruses such as influenza, the respiratory syncytial virus, and COVID-19. 

According to DHEC, the risk becomes larger when people gather for holiday events such as Thanksgiving.

“Our major holidays fall within what we consider respiratory virus season, so it’s important that everyone take precautions to ensure they stay safe and healthy while enjoying time with family and friends during the holiday season,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Public Health Director.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and DHEC recommend individuals six months and older to receive both the annual flu vaccine and updated COVID-19 vaccine.

 The Food and Drug Administration and CDC recommend a recently approved preventative monoclonal antibody for infants under eight months who are at the highest risk for RSV. 

“Taking the simple step of getting vaccinated can help prevent you from getting sick, and even if you get sick, vaccination also markedly reduces the risk of hospitalization and death, allowing you to spend this holiday season with friends and family,” said Dr. Edward Simmer, DHEC Director. “Appointments are available, so we highly encourage you to reach out to your health care provider or find a provider to schedule your updated shots.” 

DHEC encourages those who are sick or experiencing respiratory illness symptoms to stay away from social gatherings.