HOOVER, Ala. (WIAT) — Health leaders are reminding people to mask up and get vaccinated if they haven’t yet amid growing concerns about the Omicron variant.

Following Thanksgiving, people are flocking to UAB’s mass COVID vaccination site at the Hoover Met.

“Decided today to get the booster shot just because holidays are coming up and just wanted to feel safe with the variant that’s out there and just stay protected,” Joel Snead said.

Snead is one of the 800 people that have received a vaccine this week at the Hoover site. He said it’s a choice he made to protect himself.

“Yeah, I’ve seen the new variants out there, but I’m not really concerned about it, but I’m still just getting the third shot just to be safe,” he said.

“I feel like more people are coming with the rise of the new variant and even variants that we have had in the in the recent past that has popped up, so I feel like more people are coming to get their vaccine,” said Cathy Fuller, supervisor at the Hoover Met vaccination site.

Fuller said around 800 vaccines have been distributed at the Met location this week, which will close Dec. 17.

More people getting vaccinated is what the Alabama Department of Public Health is wanting to see throughout the state as they work to get more information on the new variant.

“The expectation right now is that it would be similar to other COVID viruses, but the severity we are not yet sure about, but as we have all seen, the coronavirus can cause anything from a very mild sniffle, cold symptoms, allergy symptoms, all the way to severe illness and hospitalization,” said Dr. Wes Stubblefield of the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Stubblefield said there has been a spike in COVID cases after Thanksgiving and traveling and he’s hoping people keep their guard up heading into Christmas.

“We need to have concern. We don’t need to be panicking, but we need to be watching. If you are unvaccinated and you’re planning to travel and visit people who are very vulnerable, you may want to reconsider those plans. If you’re sick, go be tested. Make sure you don’t have it even a mild case,” Stubblefield said.

“I believe in the science behind it. If someone’s not vaccinated I would like them to get vaccinated and stay safe,” said Snead.

In addition to getting the vaccine and getting tested, health leaders also recommend going back to the basics of social distancing, wearing a mask, and hand washing to help prevent the spread of the virus.

On Dec. 20, a drive-through vaccine clinic will open at the UAB Hospital Highlands parking deck. Click here to sign up for a vaccine or testing.