WASHINGTON (Nexstar) – Hospitals around the country are filling up following the Thanksgiving holiday – which caused a spike in cases of COVID, flu and other respiratory illnesses. The White House and health officials are pushing to prevent this from happening again after Christmas.

First Lady Jill Biden and U.S. health officials have a message they say will ensure Americans have the best and healthiest holiday season.

“The most important thing you can do to prepare for the holidays is to get your updated COVID vaccine,” the first lady said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House Chief Medical Adviser, says it’s critically important for at-risk groups to get the latest covid vaccines urging, “do it now, don’t waste any time.”

The advisor also says everyone, including kids, should stay up to date on vaccinations.

“There are almost 2,000 children who have died, there are 20,000 who have gotten hospitalization. And then there’s long COVID,” Fauci said.

Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID Response Coordinator, says at this point in the pandemic, having only past versions of the vaccine isn’t enough.

“The virus out there today is very different and so that’s why we need an updated vaccine because it targets the virus that’s out there. The second issue is that immunity can wane over time,” Jha explained.

During a virtual event on Friday, the panel also took questions from AARP members, including one member who asked “’will COVID ever go away?’”

Jha answered, “we can get on with our lives, we can do what matters to us if we do certain things – and that’s keep up on the vaccination, get treated if you have an infection.”

Health officials say it is likely that COVID vaccines will be needed on a yearly basis.