By Maria Medina

SAN JOSE (KPIX) — The California Department of Public Health has directed health care providers to administer the booster shot upon request to any adult fully-vaccinated for six months, according to a letter from the agency dated Nov. 9.

The direction to vaccinate millions of Californians who are 18 and older and six months out from their last COVID dose, comes exactly two weeks from Thanksgiving Day. Before the announcement, only those who were 65 and older, immunocompromised or in high-exposure jobs were eligible to get the booster shot.

“I think the state of California made the right decision in saying they can do that,” said UC Berkeley professor and infectious disease public health expert John Swartzberg. “Unfortunately, in the last 2 1/2, 3 weeks, we’ve been seeing the numbers coming up. If we have an average flu season this year on top of a swell of cases, which I’m pretty sure we’re going to see, that could stress our health care system.”

On Tuesday night, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) hosted a town hall for her constituents along with U.S. chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci. He confirmed we could see a winter surge if more Americans don’t get vaccinated.

“We’re vulnerable to get a surge unless we get more people vaccinated,” Dr. Fauci said during the virtual town hall. “You want to be part of the solution not part of the problem.”

In some parts of California, cases are slowly ticking upward causing concern as we inch toward the holidays and people are likely to gather and travel.

“We still have plenty of hospital beds, we still have plenty of ventilators but the numbers are going in the wrong direction and they’re going in the wrong direction at a time of the year — what we know from last year — is a very dangerous time of the year,” Dr. Swartzberg said. “”We’re not out of the woods with this pandemic. Be prudent over these holidays.”

Among precautionary measures people can take this holiday season Dr. Swartzberg suggests people gather only in small groups among those who are vaccinated. Stay home if you feel sick, get tested before getting together and try to gather outdoors when possible.

Dr. Swartzberg said those who are in high-risk groups should especially get the booster and those who are healthy but who want the booster should still get in line and get the extra layer of protection. Immunity has proven to wane six months after the second dose, Dr. Swartzberg said.

He added that, although the vaccines don’t seem to prevent breakthrough infections, they do greatly reduce the risk of hospitalization and death.

As of Thursday, Santa Clara County vaccination sites had numerous booster appointments available. Pharmacy appointments, including at CVS, Walgreens and RiteAid are a little more sporadic. Some pharmacies did not have appointments available until Thanksgiving week while others had appointments available Friday.

Dr. Swartzberg said he would be heeding his own advice to be careful as he gathers this holiday season.

“I’m fully vaccinated, I’m even boosted, I feel very protected but I’m not 100% protected and I don’t want to get COVID,” he said.