By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (AP) — State health officials have eased the guidelines on who qualifies for a COVID-19 booster shot, allowing all Californians who feel they are at risk to receive a dose of additional protection before attending large family gatherings planned as Thanksgiving comes.

“If we all get vaccinated that fifth wave will be so blunted and mild we will be able to go on with our lives without shutdowns,” said Dr. Jerry Abraham, director of vaccine distribution at Kedren Health. “And truly when we get through that fifth wave and move into spring and summer, I believe this pandemic will be over.”

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In a letter to all local health jurisdictions and providers on Nov. 9, Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, the state public health officer, announced that anyone who wanted one can now receive a booster shot.

Eligibility for the shots had been limited to Californians age 65 and older, whose jobs could lead to exposure to the virus and to those who have underlying medical conditions.

Now those restrictions have been lifted.

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“Allow patients to self-determine their risk of exposure,” Aragón said in the letter. “Do not turn a patient away who is requesting a booster if: The patient is 18 or over and has met the 6-month original vaccination series time period for the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or it has been at least 2 months since their J&J vaccine.”

The announcement came as Gov. Gavin Newsom and others warned of a possible surge in cases over the holidays.

While statewide hospitalizations have fallen by about half since a summer peak at the end of August, they have started creeping up in some areas, particularly the Central Valley and portions of Southern California including Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.

“We’ve seen some signs that suggest concerns,” Newsom said.

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California earlier this fall had the nation’s lowest case rate but is now 16th, he said, while the positivity rate for those tested is 2.3% after falling below 1% in June.