EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — Winter can be a challenging time to stay healthy as viral infections spread. It’s why there is a sense of urgency to get the latest COVID booster.

Nearly three years after emerging as a global threat, the virus which causes COVID has evolved. So has a vaccine to target the original strain and the latest ones. The most up-to-date shot is called a bivalent booster.

“It is actually necessary if you want to be fully protected,” said Dr. Sumita Khatri, Vice Chair of the Respiratory Institute; Director of the Asthma Center, Cleveland Clinic; and Chair-Elect of the American Lung Association.

Necessary, according to Dr. Sumita Khatri, even if you recently had a COVID infection likely caused by the Omicron subvariants. The question is how soon can you get the shot after you’ve been infected. Dr. Khatri says, generally, about three months afterward but…

“If you’re going to be around people who are vulnerable you can talk to your healthcare provider and if you’re not, you know, if you’ve recovered and you’re doing okay, you might want to get it done earlier again just to protect the people around you,” explained Dr. Khatri.

Some of those people have weakened immune systems, are ineligible for the vaccine or not up to date on their shots. They are vulnerable to the worst effects of the virus which only add to an overwhelming demand on hospitals.

“People who are older than 50, as they get older seeing more susceptibility. People who are more obese. So they end up not only coming into the hospital but staying longer,” Dr. Khatari told Eyewitness News.

Since the holiday season typically brings people together, it’s concerning as COVID cases rise.

“Is it too late to get the bivalent in order to protect ourselves for any family get-togethers or parties?” asked Mark Hiller.

“I have great news for you. Call it a Christmas present if you want but if you get the shot now in a couple weeks you’ll be pretty much as immune as you need to be to not only keep yourself healthy but be less likely to transmit it to others,” responded Dr. Khatri.

Anyone six months and older is eligible for the bivalent booster provided they received their first two primary covid shots.

Head to the COVID Vaccine Project’s website to find a vaccine provider near you.