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California health officials urge COVID booster shots ahead of the holidays

Hoping to avoid another surge of COVID-19 cases this winter, California public health officials on Monday urged residents to get booster shots and vaccinate their newly eligible younger children.

With the combination of people gathering indoors due to colder weather and waning vaccine immunity, the health department said it sees a concerning rise of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths across the state.

“With cases ticking up in most parts of the state, we cannot let our guard down and we cannot underestimate this deadly virus,” Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, director of California’s public health department, said in a statement.

He encouraged families to get their children ages 5 to 11, who became eligible for Pfizer shots as of last week, vaccinated as soon as possible.

“Last year at this time our COVID-19 cases increased at a dangerous rate, so we can’t underscore enough the importance to vaccinate and boost to protect yourself, your family and all of our communities against this virus,” Aragón said.

Daily cases rose from less than 3,000 in October to more than 58,000 in December in 2020, according to state data.

Aragón also appeared to endorse booster shots for all who had received their initial doses in the spring or earlier.

“Get your booster if you completed your vaccination series more than six months ago, especially if you or someone in your home has a medical condition or works around other people,” Aragón said.

When asked for clarification about the recommendation, the public health department referred to the most current guidance on booster shots, which prioritizes people over 65 or those who work in high-risk settings.

“The recommendations for booster shots have not changed,” said Ali Bay, spokesperson for the state health department. “In general terms that everyone can understand, we urge Californians to get a booster if someone in their home has a medical condition or if they work around other people.”

Aragón also encouraged the continued use of masks in public and crowded spaces.

Aidin Vaziri is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected]

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