HOUSTON (KIAH) — The Houston Health Department wants everyone to stay safe this holiday season. So it’s urging everyone to get their vaccinations and take safety precautions, for holiday gatherings.

The department asking everyone to take these steps now to make the holidays as safe as possible, and help prevent a COVID-19 surge in January.

The Health Department says people who are not yet fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or currently eligible for a booster, need to get their shots as soon as possible. Everyone age 5 and older is eligible for free COVID-19 vaccination, and people 16 and older are eligible for a booster shot.

A Flu vaccination is also important now as cases tend to increase in January. Everyone 6 months and older can also get vaccinated against the flu.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it typically takes up to two weeks to build protection after vaccination.

“Thanks to readily available COVID-19 vaccines, this holiday season can more safely include the in-person family gatherings that we miss and cherish,” said Dr. David Persse, chief medical officer for the City of Houston. “While the pandemic persists and challenges remain, we know that vaccination layered with simple safety precautions offer us protection against this virus.”

In addition to vaccinations, people can help prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses too, by:

  • Wearing a mask covering the nose and mouth in indoor public settings
  • Staying six feet from others who don’t live with them
  • Avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces
  • Increase ventilation by opening windows or doors for fresh air
  • Washing hands often with soap or using hand sanitizer
  • getting tested for COVID-19 before and after gathering with family and friends.

The health department offers all doses of COVID-19 vaccines to eligible people 5 and older at its vaccination sites. Vaccination is free and does not require proof of residency. A list of health department vaccination sites is available at HoustonHealth.org or by calling 832-393-4220. Vaccines are also readily available at pharmacies and doctors offices.