BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — With the news of the COVID-19 booster shots approved for 17 and 18 year olds, Alabama doctors are urging those who haven’t been vaccinated to get their shot immediately.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, only 46% of adults in the state are fully vaccinated.

The recent spike in cases is credited to Thanksgiving and other holiday gatherings. With the Omicron variant spreading rapidly, even in states with high vaccination rates, doctors worry about the unvaccinated this holiday season.

“So as these surges come back, people who are unvaccinated are still 12 fold more likely to die,” Dr. Michael Saag at UAB said.

“Overall, my biggest concern is we have a lot of people that are unvaccinated and a lot of people will be traveling,” Dr. Karen Landers with the Alabama Department of Public Health said.

And with cases rising, more deaths are expected.

“We’ve already lost 16,000 plus Alabamians to this disease,” Dr. Landers said.

Dr. Saag says many of the COVID deaths that have happened could have been prevented.

“I lay a lot of that at the feet of politics. I think it’s hurt us. It’s actually killing people,” Dr. Saag said.

The best line of defense? Being fully vaccinated. Dr. Saag says if a person has gotten their first two shots, it’s imperative to get the booster shot now.

“Without the booster, you’re more likely to have a break-through infection where you get symptoms. But getting the booster will help minimize that,” Dr. Saag said.

Dr. Landers says while vaccination numbers have improved overall, she believes they need to be higher.

“And that is certainly better than we were, but we need to be a lot higher,” Dr. Landers said.

And experts say the more people fully vaccinated, the less spread during the holiday season.

“Even if it was 6 months ago or even before then, now is a really good time to get vaccinated,” Dr. Saag said.

For more information on COVID-19 in Alabama, click here.