FOR YOUR HEALTH – Fact Or Fiction: COVID-19 Vaccine And Booster Myths Debunked

To boost your chances of staying healthy, get a COVID vaccine booster.

(NAPSI)—Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, myths and misperceptions about COVID and vaccines continue to arise and evolve on social media, online and in daily conversation. Getting facts from a reliable source can keep myths from complicating decisions about getting vaccinated and boosted or following other prevention measures.

“Misinformation tends to spread rapidly, and it can be difficult for people to sort fact from fiction,” said Dr. Shaefer Spires, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Medical Director of Duke Antimicrobial Stewardship Outreach Network at Duke University School of Medicine. “But at this point in the fight against COVID, there is no doubt that keeping up on vaccinations gives people the strongest defense against serious illness.”

Here are the facts behind COVID vaccine and booster myths:

Myth: The need for booster shots is a sign that the vaccines aren’t working.

Fact: Science shows that COVID vaccines are working well to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and premature death. However, studies show that protection against mild and moderate disease can decrease gradually over time, and boosters can make your protection last longer. They can also help protect you against new variants.

Myth: Vaccinated and boosted people no longer need to wear masks or social distance.

Fact: Even though vaccines reduce the risk of spreading and getting COVID, the virus can still be passed through the air as people breathe and talk, especially in crowded and poorly ventilated spaces. To help prevent the spread of COVID and reduce risk of infection, everyone ages 2 years and older should wear the best-fitting mask available to them while in public indoor areas regardless of their vaccination status. In general, people do not need to wear masks when outdoors.

Myth: Since there are more ways to treat COVID, getting vaccinated is no longer necessary. 

Fact: Many advances have been made in the fight against COVID, but treatments have limitations and it is always better to prevent disease in the first place. Some treatments, including antivirals like “the COVID pill,” must be taken within days of getting COVID and are only for people at highest risk. Other treatments are taken by injection or intravenously in multiple sessions in a healthcare facility. Treatments are in limited supply and do not keep you from getting COVID. They can also be expensive. Getting vaccinated teaches the body to recognize and fight the virus. No-cost vaccines and boosters offer the best form of protection against severe illness, hospitalization, and premature death.

Myth: Natural immunity from getting sick with COVID is better than the immunity you get from vaccination.

Fact: The risks of getting seriously ill from COVID, or of developing long COVID after infection, far outweigh any potential side effects of COVID vaccines. Getting vaccinated gives most people a high level of protection against severe illness. Current data shows that unvaccinated adults 18 and older are five times more likely to get COVID than vaccinated adults and 16 times more likely to be hospitalized from it than vaccinated adults. Vaccination also protects the people around you since you can spread COVID to others when you are ill. Vaccination even provides more robust protection for people who have already had COVID to reduce the risk of getting infected again.

Myths and misperceptions about COVID, vaccines, and boosters are everywhere, and misinformation can interfere with making informed decisions about getting vaccinated or following other prevention measures—putting people at risk for severe illness, hospitalization, and premature death.

Learn More

For accurate, science-based information about vaccines and boosters, visit

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Building A Stronger Retirement

A healthy, happy retirement can be easier to achieve if you plan ahead.

(NAPSI)—With each generation’s expected retirement time growing longer and longer, you may need to plan for 20 to 30 years of life after you stop working. And when it comes to ways to save for the future, many Americans think first of the 401(k), the most popular and well-known retirement savings option.

Saving for Your Health

Lesser known—and understood—is another way to save for your future: the Health Savings Account (HSA). With rising healthcare costs that can exceed $10,000 annually during the retirement years, HSAs are gaining more recognition as a smart way to complement 401(k)s and other retirement savings options by helping you plan and save for healthcare costs encountered now and in the future.

The Foundation

Traditional 401(k) plans are popular retirement vehicles for several reasons:

  • Tax advantages: 401(k) contributions are taken out of your paycheck before federal taxes are withheld, which lowers your taxable income. Contributions are also tax-deferred until you withdraw them.
  • More control: You can contribute as much as you want to a 401(k) within your plan and IRS limits, and you can change your contribution at any time.
  • Compound interest: The earlier you start investing in a 401(k), the more time your money has to grow.
  • It moves with you: The money in your 401(k) belongs to you—even if you change jobs, you can keep your money invested and growing.
  • Ease of use: 401(k)s are easy to contribute to, with many employers offering automatic payroll deductions.

Add More Stability and Strength with an HSA

If you save in your HSA as well as a 401(k), you can take advantage of three unique benefits:

1.Triple-tax advantage: No federal taxes on contributions, withdrawals for qualified medical expenses, or investment earnings

2.Build long-term healthcare and retirement savings: Especially with HSA Bank’s self-directed investment options

3.No “use it or lose it”: Investment balances carry over from year to year and grow tax-free (just like the HSA cash account)

Save for Expenses

Tax-free HSA fund withdrawals are limited to IRS-qualified medical expenses, but there’s a lengthy list of future healthcare costs your HSA can pay for, so your 401(k) funds don’t have to. These include everything from acupuncture to a wheelchair and many things in between.

Learn More

For further facts and tips on HSAs and planning your retirement, go to

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Three tips to help Medicare Advantage enrollees choose a no-cost or low-cost gym membership

A happier, healthier you can start with a quality fitness program.

(NAPSI)—It’s still Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment season and many fitness-minded folks are choosing to sign up for Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plans because they appreciate the extra benefits such as subsidized gym memberships. If you have one of these plans, or you’re thinking of enrolling in one, then you may be ready to take the next step in your exercise journey by joining a new fitness center. Here are three tips to help you select the best fitness center for your needs:

1. Learn which gyms are subsidized through your Medicare Advantage program. Whether you currently belong to a gym and want to remain a member there, or if you want to try a new fitness center, Medicare Advantage may have you covered. Thousands of top-name gyms, fitness centers, YMCAs, and boutique fitness clubs across the country belong to fitness networks that honor Medicare Advantage memberships. You can call your Medicare Advantage plan directly to learn what fitness program they offer and what gyms near you participate. Options such as the Silver&Fit® Healthy Aging and Exercise program offer access to 18,000+ fitness centers across the nation. Programs like these also offer member benefits such as health coaching and a library of on-demand video workouts. Plus, members can enjoy Facebook Live workout classes or YouTube streaming classes. Whether you want to work out at home, get fit at the gym, or attend classes online, the Silver&Fit program offers something for everyone.

2. Choose the right gym for your exercise needs. Ask yourself this question—what are the most important things that will keep you coming back to the gym in 2022? Do you have a yearning for yoga, a passion for Pilates or a goal to gain muscle? Then make sure the gym you select offers those options and more. If you love strength training, check that a gym offers various weight training machines and free weights. If you crave structured workout sessions, ask the gym for a class schedule so you can scout the options available. If you’re an older adult who enjoys low-impact water aerobics, seek out a gym with a pool. Today’s gyms offer many workout options, so investigate several. You can research gyms online by visiting the websites of programs such as the Silver&Fit program to see what gyms are in their network. Just enter your zip code and you’ll see what gyms are convenient for you.

3. Choose a gym that will motivate you to work out. Research shows that people stay more motivated to work out when they can do it with a spouse or friend. Find a gym your spouse or friends will also enjoy, then work out together. Or join a gym that offers social events, such as lunches or coffees. Or meet new friends in your in-person classes. Another important motivating factor is location. Choosing a gym close to your home can help ensure that you go regularly. It may be especially helpful if you find one within walking distance. Your walk to the gym can serve as a warm-up and cool-down to start and end your gym session. Other amenities to keep in mind are access to showers and locker rooms and the cleanliness and safety of the gym. Many gyms provide hand sanitizer and equipment sanitizer stations as well as other COVID-safe protocols. Call the gyms you are considering to learn what their specific policies are.

Always remember to consult with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine and to discuss what types of exercises are safest for you.

You can use the Medicare Advantage open enrollment period as an opportunity to plan how you’ll get back into your fitness routine—or to set new fitness goals. It’s never too late to get started. To learn whether your Medicare Advantage plan offers the Silver&Fit program, check:

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Choosing the Perfect Personal Trainer

As many people have discovered, it’s a healthy idea to have a personal fitness trainer.

by Gini Grimsley, MS, CSCS

(NAPSI)—Exercising with a personal trainer has transformed from a luxury amenity into a highly effective lifestyle routine in many people’s health and fitness journeys. One reason may be that, according to a recent report by International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), a global health and fitness association, 83 percent of consumers who exercise in-person with a personal trainer are on track to meet their fitness goals.

Personal trainers not only focus on the workouts inside a gym, but influence habits outside the gym and have become an essential part of their clients’ wellness team. If you’re thinking about hiring a personal trainer, there are many things to consider.


Set clear goals and search for trainers who specialize in your area of focus. All personal trainers know the basics but if you’re looking for something specific—competing in a race, for example—you may need to work with a trainer who has a more specialized skill set.


Never hire a trainer who does not hold the minimum standard qualifications to practice personal training. Certifications from these reputable associations are considered the gold-standard:

  • The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
  • American Council on Exercise (ACE)
  • American College of Sport Medicine (ACSM)

Inquire about other specialty certifications, too, such as pre- and post-natal, corrective exercise, or Olympic weightlifting.


Interview your prospective personal trainers and get to know them. You’ll be spending a lot of time with this person, so it’s important you enjoy being around them. Have them share their training philosophy: Personal trainers should be able to articulate what they do and why, helping you understand their thoughts around fitness and how they’ll help you reach your goals. Don’t forget to ask about availability to ensure the trainer can fit you into their current schedule on your preferred dates and times.

Tailored Programming

A great personal trainer will be able to take what they learn about you during an introductory session and build out a program structured specifically for you. The program should be holistic and focus on activities and lifestyle habits conducted inside and outside the gym. Have them outline a plan for you, detailing mini milestones you can achieve during the process.

• Ms Grimsley is a Personal Training expert at VASA Fitness. Learn more at

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Tips And Tricks To Make 2022 The Year You Quit Tobacco For Good

You can get free help quitting tobacco this year.

(NAPSI)—For many, the past year has been a reminder that they can take important steps in taking charge of their own health and well-being. Now that it’s time for new resolutions, making a positive change for some can mean quitting tobacco. Whether it’s cigarettes, dip, e-cigarettes or some other form, quitting tobacco is often at the top of lists of health-related resolutions. However, one reason it’s frequently on resolutions lists is it can take several attempts to quit for good.

One thing to know if you’re planning to quit is you absolutely don’t have to do it alone. Consider talking with your doctor or health care provider for any tips, tricks or suggestions that can help improve your chances of quitting.

Creating a quit plan and using proven-effective resources, such as those available, free, from Tobacco Free Florida, can also significantly increase your chances of quitting for good. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) including gum, patches or lozenges may even double your chances of quitting for good. The Quit Your Way program offers free Phone Quit, Group Quit and Web Quit services, as well as such things as text support and a Quit Guide. Group Quit classes are also free and available in-person or virtual.

Here are some more tips for anyone making a resolution to quit:

  • Make a plan and set a quit date. This will help keep you prepared, focused and motivated to quit.
  • Tell your family and friends your quit date. Ask for their patience and support. This might include changing up plans for where you meet up so they can be part of following (and cheering on) your progress.
  • Clean anything that might smell like smoke. Check your car, carpets and clothes. Get rid of anything that might trigger a craving, such as ashtrays or lighters.
  • Remember and reinforce your reason for quitting. Is it for your kids? Put up a few more smiling pictures where you used to take a smoke break. Is it because of the thousands of dollars you’ll save? Keep a note in your wallet or purse where you can track your progress towards a financial goal or reward with all the money you’re saving by not smoking.
  • Have healthy snacks, toothpicks or straws around to grab in situations where you just need something to break up your routine and get through the early cravings.

The start of every year sees more and more people live out their resolutions and quit tobacco for good. Today, there are more former smokers in the state than current smokers. About three in five adults who have ever smoked have now quit, suggesting that most smokers who keep trying eventually succeed.

If this is the year you’re planning to quit, and you want information on all these tips and more, check out or call 1-877-U-CAN-NOW (1-877-822-6669) to start the new year with a Quit Journey.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Helping The Nervous System Heal Itself

When Codi Darnell was injured in a fall, her father-in-law, Dr. Harold Punnett, co-founded a pharmaceutical company to seek a cure for her spinal cord injury.

(NAPSI)—For decades, medical researchers struggled to solve the mystery of how to reverse paralysis caused by serious spinal cord injuries. Finally, hope appears to be at hand.

Making Mice Move

Remarkable video footage shows how paralyzed mice regained some of their ability to walk again after receiving an experimental drug treatment.

The injectable pre-clinical therapy, which is designed to regenerate nerve cells in spinal cord injuries, is being developed by researchers at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

However, the scientists have yet to make the big leap from animal to human clinical trials, meaning that this drug candidate is quite a few years from potentially being approved by government regulators for commercialization.

Clinical Trial

Another experimental therapy has achieved even more impressive results with most laboratory rodents regaining coordinated movement—even enabling previously paralyzed rats to climb tiny ladders—and it is much further along on the developmental curve.

This novel drug candidate is known as NVG-291 and is the brainchild of a renowned neuroscientist, Dr. Jerry Silver, who has licensed his technology to a Canadian life sciences company, NervGen Pharma Corp.

Five years ago, Codi Darnell, the daughter-in-law of Dr. Harold Punnett, a co-founder of NervGen, fell and became a complete T-11 paraplegic. Dr. Punnett discovered a revolutionary nerve regeneration technology in Dr. Jerry Silver’s work at Case Western Reserve University which resulted in the formation of NervGen.

Dr. Silver’s innovation offers renewed hope for the estimated 300,000 to 500,000 North Americans who dream of one day regaining sensation and motor function in their paralyzed limbs. This is similarly the case for more than a million Americans who have debilitating peripheral nerve injuries.

With no approved pharmaceuticals for spinal cord injury, it is heartening that NVG-291 is undergoing Phase 1 clinical trials, aimed at demonstrating its safety and lack of toxicity in healthy human trial volunteers.

This drug candidate is primed for important studies in patients in 2022. This is when its efficacy will be put to the test for the first time in humans afflicted by a range of debilitating spinal cord injuries and other nerve damage. Dr. Silver says he expects to get impressive results due to the surprising similarity between the central nervous systems of rats and humans.

His advanced-stage research work has taken on a greater urgency as the pharmaceutical industry has yet to bring to market any drugs that are able to repair injured nerves and let patients regain or improve key bodily functions. Unfortunately, current treatments that simply slow down or mitigate the debilitating effects on the human body resulting from the mass death of neurons in the brain or spine do not work in spinal cord injury.

Accordingly, Dr. Silver envisions that NVG-291 has the potential to revolutionize the treatment of spinal cord injuries. This is because it is designed to heal nerve damage by unleashing the body’s natural ability to repair itself. NVG-291 doesn’t just repair nerve cells, it creates new neural pathways via the extraordinary process of neural plasticity.

This work has been independently replicated in a German laboratory by other scientists, who also used rats. Interestingly, they used doses of NVG-291 that were 50 times higher than used by Dr. Silver. The study achieved even better recovery outcomes, while noting no toxicity issues with the rats from experiencing such comparably high doses.

Dr. Silver says, “It is our hope that this technology can improve the lives of the many people living with debilitating nerve damage. And we’re very confident that we’re on the right track.”

Learn More

For more facts, see

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Ring In The New Year With An ‘Anti’ Resolution List

The JRNY digital fitness platform features hundreds of workouts including strength, cardio, HIIT, yoga, stretching and Pilates. JRNY is integrated with Bowflex cardio equipment such as the Max Total 16 and features workouts perfect for use with the Bowflex SelectTech 552 and 1090 dumbbells.

(NAPSI)—As the world celebrates the new year, many will make an annual list of resolutions and goals, which often include improving overall health and fitness.

As we continue to weather the COVID-19 pandemic, improving overall health is front and center, more so than usual. However, according to the U.S. New Year’s Resolutions 2020 study conducted by YouGov, over half of those who set New Year’s resolutions can’t follow through.
Luckily, exercise physiologist and Bowflex fitness advisor Tom Holland has a new approach to setting and reaching your health and fitness goals this year.
Focus on Anti-Resolutions
Holland recommends turning the typical New Year’s resolutions list on its head by creating “anti-resolutions” to focus on what you’re not going to do. For example, instead of saying “I’m going to work out every day” or “eat only healthy foods,” resolve to not make excuses. This can take the focus off the broader goal and onto in-the-moment actions. The next time you plan to go the gym or cook a healthy meal, and you start to come up with reasons today’s not the day, you can remember your resolution to not make excuses. If you set unrealistic resolutions to transform your entire lifestyle all at once, it’s more difficult to take the necessary steps to get there.
Most people have made excuses for not making a workout or sticking to a routine. This anti-resolution approach changes the focus from overly ambitious goals to a more subtle mindset shift.
To help you continue or take those first steps on your fitness journey, Holland also recommends connected fitness services and apps, such as the JRNY digital fitness platform ( With the JRNY app, you can easily fit exercise into your schedule with a wide range of personalized, trainer-led workouts. JRNY is integrated with Bowflex cardio equipment, including stationary bikes and treadmills, and features off-product workouts such as HIIT, strength, yoga, stretch and Pilates, which can be accessed from a mobile device or tablet via the JRNY app. So many options means no more excuses. No matter your fitness level, goals or lifestyle, JRNY has exercise programs to help you stay motivated and active so you can make exercise a habit in your life.

Determine What Works Best for You

Often people struggle to get started working out because they think they need to go to the gym all the time or sacrifice privacy, comfort and entertainment to see results. Holland notes that it’s important to not let trends, other people’s opinions or even your own preconceived notions get in the way.
It’s easier than ever before to find a workout routine that aligns with your lifestyle. If going to the gym isn’t your speed, you could pick up a versatile fitness product such as a set of Bowflex SelectTech 552 dumbbells ( or download the JRNY mobile app ( for access to hundreds of video workouts that can be done from the comfort of your own home—no expensive gym membership or commute required.
If you find your motivation is dwindling, the Bowflex Max Total 16 ( is a great option that lets you do high-intensity, interval workouts at home while streaming your entertainment subscriptions including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, and Disney+.
This new year, try a different approach to health and fitness resolutions by kicking the overly ambitious goals of the past to the side in favor of setting anti-resolutions instead. At the same time, take advantage of what today’s fitness technology has to offer to improve your odds of success and make this your year.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Get The Facts About Fertility, Pregnancy, And COVID-19 Vaccines

by the We Can Do This COVID-19 Public Education Campaign

(NAPSI)—Questions and misinformation about the effect of COVID-19 vaccines on fertility and pregnancy have left some people uncertain about getting vaccinated if they are pregnant or hoping to get pregnant, but the facts should be reassuring.

“It’s understandable that parents and those who hope to become parents are cautious about COVID-19 vaccines,” said Dr. Daniel Diekema, a hospital epidemiologist at the University of Iowa Healthcare. “However, it should be comforting to know that the vaccines are safe and effective during pregnancy. Growing data and science demonstrate that the benefits of getting vaccinated far outweigh any risks, and we have a long history with vaccines that makes it clear they do not affect future fertility.” Here are key facts about fertility, pregnancy, and the COVID vaccines:

Getting vaccinated protects you during and after pregnancy. COVID-19 can be especially dangerous for people who are pregnant or have recently been pregnant as cases during pregnancy are more likely to be severe. COVID is dangerous for the unborn child too. A recent study found COVID infections are associated with an increased risk of stillbirth. Safety monitoring systems and studies have shown that the COVID vaccines are safe for people who are pregnant, and vaccination reduces the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death. Growing data continues to reinforce that the risks from getting COVID-19 at any stage of pregnancy are far worse than potential side effects from vaccines.

Getting vaccinated protects your unborn or nursing child. Data from safety monitoring systems continues to show vaccines are safe for pregnant people and their babies and getting vaccinated is much safer than contracting COVID. If you’re breastfeeding, getting vaccinated could even help protect your baby, as recent reports have shown that some breastfeeding parents have antibodies in their breast milk after they’ve been vaccinated.

COVID vaccines will not interfere with getting pregnant. No evidence exists of COVID vaccines causing problems with fertility. In a recent study, people who had gotten the COVID vaccine had the same pregnancy success rate as people who had not been vaccinated. Vaccines are carefully studied and monitored, and it is clear they are safe for people who are pregnant or who want to become pregnant. If you are trying to become pregnant, you do not need to avoid pregnancy after receiving a COVID vaccine. If you get pregnant after your first shot, you should get the second shot and a booster on schedule for the most protection possible.

Knowing the facts about COVID vaccines can provide confidence and comfort. Anyone with concerns should ask questions of a trusted health professional, such as a family physician, pharmacist, or nurse. The benefits of vaccination far outweigh potential risks. Vaccines are the best way of getting this pandemic under control.

For more information and to find a vaccine, visit

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Wisdom Teeth Removal: Why, When And How

Here’s something to smile about: Tips for the 85 percent of young adults who don’t have room for third molars.

(NAPSI)—This year, more than five million Americans, mostly between the ages of 17 and 25, will have their wisdom teeth removed to prevent or address teeth crowding or pain. Dentists recommend that most people (85%) have their wisdom teeth taken out to prevent health issues—such as impactions, infections, or decay—because modern mouths are smaller than our ancestors’ and typically don’t have room for this third set of molars.

That’s the why. But when is best for this preventive surgery? Wisdom teeth (so-called because of how late in life they form, once a person has a bit more wisdom), are easiest to remove when the roots are not yet fully formed, so many dentists recommend removing them in late adolescence. Waiting until they come in fully can make extraction and recovery more difficult.

According to Nadia Fugate, DMD, a licensed dentist who serves as a Delta Dental of Washington dental consultant, “Many people’s mouths just aren’t big enough for all 32 teeth, making crowding issues worse. This leads to potential damage to the adjacent teeth, difficulty keeping teeth clean and leading to decay or infections of the gums around these teeth. Wisdom teeth can also cause jaw, muscle, and headache pain. Because every person’s mouth is different, you should ask your dentist if your or your child’s wisdom teeth need to be removed.”

Wisdom teeth recovery tips for patients and caregivers 

While removing wisdom teeth requires outpatient surgery and anesthesia, the extraction process itself is usually short and pain-free. The more difficult part for wisdom teeth extraction patients is the recovery portion, which typically lasts between three and seven days.

The first two days are the most painful and is when blood clots form to protect the wound from infection and prevent excess bleeding. During this period, patients should keep the area clean, brush gently near the extraction site and avoid chewing.

Pain relief medication, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can be taken as needed. Dentists recommend icing the cheeks on the first day and keeping the head elevated. A gentle rinse with antiseptic mouthwash is okay after the first 24 hours. Additional gauze can be applied to the surgery site if there is a lot of bleeding. In some cases, sutures will need to be removed by the dentist, about a week after surgery.

As far as food is concerned, for the first two days, consuming yogurt, pudding, smoothies and liquids is fine but don’t use a straw; it can loosen blood clots. After then, patients can eat soft foods such as scrambled eggs, Jell-O or mashed potatoes. Most importantly, avoid hard or sticky foods for at least a week, as well as foods with seeds which can easily get stuck in the extraction site.

Complications are rare and, typically, the only thing you may need is to have sutures removed, approximately one week after the surgery. Watch for signs of fever, difficulty swallowing or breathing, persistent numbness or pus oozing from the socket and alert your caregiver if any of those symptoms arise. Swelling should reduce after two days; let your dentist know if it doesn’t.

One of the more serious complications of wisdom tooth removal is a condition known as “dry socket,” in which the protective blood clot is disturbed and the bone is exposed to air, food, and bacteria. This can be very painful, as well as a cause of infection. Avoiding the use of straws, smoking, spitting or getting strenuous exercise for the first two weeks after surgery can help prevent this condition.

Learn More

For more facts about wisdom teeth, visit

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Four Ways To Have A Festive And Safe Holiday Season

(NAPSI)—Entering the second holiday season of the COVID-19 pandemic, Idahoans are eager to reconnect with family and friends and return to treasured holiday traditions. Some simple steps can keep family and friends healthy through their fall and winter celebrations.

“Every family has unique traditions, and they are eager to enjoy time with loved ones this year, especially if they skipped or changed their holiday plans due to COVID-19 in 2020,” said Dr. ­Catherine Oliphant, co-chair of pharmacy practice and administrative sciences and professor at Idaho State University College of Pharmacy. “With a little care and planning, it is possible to enjoy these special holiday traditions while making sure everyone stays healthy.”

As generations gather to celebrate, the No. 1 way to avoid spreading COVID-19, including to grandparents, young children and others who may be vulnerable, is to make sure everyone who is eligible gets vaccinated against COVID-19. Children ages 5-11 are the most recent group eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. Learn more at

People can take these additional steps to ensure they safely enjoy family, friends and special connections they may have missed recently, even as people from different households and different parts of the country gather.

Assess travel plans. Consider delaying travel until you’re fully vaccinated. Remember, masks that cover your nose and mouth are required for everyone on planes, buses, trains and other public transportation. If you’re unvaccinated, plan to get tested one to three days before your trip within the United States and three to five days after you return. Plan to self-quarantine for seven days, even if the test is negative. If you travel by car, be aware that you and your travel companions could be exposed to the virus on stops for gas, food and bathroom breaks. Remember to wear a mask, wash your hands frequently and maintain social distancing at these locations. If traveling internationally, especially to places where vaccination rates are low and COVID-19 is spreading, visit the CDC’s website for recommendations on international travel.

Get tested. If you’ve been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, or if you’re not feeling well before the holidays, especially if you have COVID-19 symptoms, get tested. Tests are widely available at pharmacies and doctors’ offices. Getting tested can provide security, knowing that you won’t infect your friends and relatives and everyone can enjoy a stress-free holiday. If in doubt, consider staying home and joining festivities virtually. This will allow you to enjoy the fun while staying safe.

Pay attention to ventilation. When celebrating with your families, try to avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces. Consider moving celebrations outdoors, especially if you are planning a large get-together. Have a cookout or roast marshmallows. If you attend family festivities indoors where some guests may not be vaccinated, wear a well-fitting mask over your nose and mouth, remembering that you should never put a mask on a child under the age of 2. The CDC also recommends mask wearing in public indoor settings regardless of vaccination status.

Consider your health status. If you or someone in your household has a health condition or someone is taking medications that weaken the immune system, you should take extra precautions, even if you are fully vaccinated. The CDC recommends that those with weakened immune systems follow similar guidelines for unvaccinated people, like such as mask-wearing and social distancing.

The winter holidays are a time to reconnect and celebrate with people we care about. There are many ways to make this year’s festivities a time to remember. Following these safety measures can allow Idahoans to gather together and practice traditions that make the holidays so special. Safe practices are key and the most effective way to ensure a joyful holiday is to get vaccinated.

For more information and to find a vaccine, visit