Beginning today, county health units throughout the state will be providing flu vaccines in preparation for the 2020-2021 flu season, according to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH).
The ADH says it is important to get a flu vaccine every year, because the flu virus changes from year to year. This year’s vaccine protects against the flu viruses that are expected to cause the most illness this flu season.
“This year it will be especially important to get a flu shot,” said Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, state epidemiologist at the ADH. “This is mainly for two reasons: You don’t want to have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. The second reason is because flu vaccinations can go a long way to keeping people out of the hospital. And we want to decrease the number of hospitalizations in Arkansas as much as possible because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
At both the Independence and Jackson County Health Units, vaccines will be available on a walk-in basis from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays beginning today. Drive-through vaccinations will be offered in the units’ respective parking lots between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 21 thru Sept. 25.
The Independence County Health Unit is located at 120 Weaver Ave. in Batesville and can be reached by calling (870) 793-8848. The Jackson County Health Unit is located at 1505 N. Pecan St. in Newport and can be reached at (870) 523-8968.
The ADH says people should bring their insurance cards with them to the health unit. If anyone does not have insurance, or the insurance does not cover flu vaccine, the vaccine will be available at no charge. Local health unit contact information can be found at healthy.arkansas.gov/health-units.
People of all ages can get the flu. Certain people are more likely to have serious health problems if they get the flu. This includes older adults, young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), people who smoke, and people who live in nursing homes. Therefore, the ADH strongly recommends that people in these groups get a flu vaccine.
It is also recommended that friends, family members, and people who provide care to people in these groups also get a vaccine — not only to protect themselves, but also to decrease the possibility that they might expose the people they love and care for to the flu.
The flu vaccine is safe and does not cause the flu. Some people may have mild soreness and redness near the site of the shot and a low fever or slight headache. There are very few medical reasons to skip the flu vaccine. These include life-threatening allergic reactions to a previous dose of the flu vaccine or an ingredient in the vaccine. People with allergies to vaccine ingredients can often receive the vaccine safely, if it is given in a doctor’s office where they can be monitored, according to the ADH.
The flu is easily spread through coughing or sneezing and by touching something, such as a door knob, with the virus on it and then touching their nose or mouth. Good hand washing habits are important in preventing the flu; however, the best way to prevent the flu is to get the vaccine, the ADH says.
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