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COVID-19 variants could be more dangerous for unvaccinated people, doctors say

COVID-19 vaccines have been around for a few months now, but less than half of the state of Alabama has been vaccinated.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Gov. Kay Ivey lifted the mask mandate in April, but before you start ditch your mask at home, there are some things you should know.

Nearly 30% of people in Alabama are fully vaccinated and approximately 36% of Alabamians have been given at least one dose of a vaccine.

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With new variants of COVID-19 spreading in the U.S., experts say the virus is stronger than it was a year ago. As COVID-19 continues to spread, the virus has more opportunities to replicate and alter itself.

“I think what we know so far about variants is that the virus is modifying itself so that it can be more contagious so that it can spread more easily. So, the concern there is that, whereas a year ago you would’ve needed to be in the room with a person for a long period of time and be very close to them these variants they catch quicker. They’re able to spread more effectively,” said UAB Medicine Chief of Hospital Medicine Dr. Kierstin Kennedy.

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To stay safe, doctors are recommending that those who can get the vaccine do so as soon as possible.

"What we’re seeing that’s really reassuring is, for those of us that are vaccinated the risk remains very low even in the setting of these variants. But, I think for those that are unvaccinated or without any sort of a short term natural immunity from having had COVID, those folks are at higher risk of catching COVID and probably a lot more easily than they would have a year ago,” said Dr. Kennedy.

Those ages 12 and older can get the two-dose Pfizer vaccine. Anyone over the age of 18 can receive the two-dose Moderna vaccine, and the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine. 

Doctors say relying on good health — no matter what age group you’re in — will not be enough to combat the virus.

For more information on how to book an appointment to receive your vaccine shot, check your local pharmacy.