By Mary Hightower
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Arkansans shouldn’t let the COVID-19 pandemic distract them from a more familiar fall and winter foe: Influenza.
Last winter, Arkansas reported about 40,000 cases of flu, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. There were 118 flu-related deaths, three of which were children.
“Getting vaccinated against flu is more important now, than ever,” Bryan Mader, assistant professor for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and an extension nutrition specialist, said. “The flu vaccine can keep you from getting the flu, make the flu less severe if you do get it, and keep you from spreading flu to your family and friends.”
Mader says there are two misconceptions that sometimes prevent people from taking the flu vaccine.
“One common misconception about the flu vaccine is that it can actually give you the flu,” he said. “This is not true, and in fact, flu shots are made with inactivated viruses that will not cause illness.
“A second myth is that getting a flu vaccine will increase your risk of getting COVID-19,” Mader said. “This is also not true, and there is no evidence that getting a flu vaccination increases your risk of becoming ill from a coronavirus, like the one that causes COVID-19.”
Flu vaccines are available at the local Arkansas Department of Health office (search for your local office https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/local-health-units).
The state Department of Health also holds mass flu clinics at various locations throughout the state. The Arkansas Department of Health does not charge out-of-pocket costs for a flu shot and does not require insurance for receiving a flu shot, but you are encouraged to bring insurance information if you have it, Mader said.
Arkansans may obtain a flu vaccine through their employer’s health insurance program, doctor’s office or local pharmacy, which may be located within a grocery or supermarket. Public schools may also offer mass flu clinics (see the schedule https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1X1DhzVQl1jEZ6OEwq0FbCEZhJBSh1qYkNXeSqAJ0JIo/edit?usp=sharing).
Find additional information on the flu at https://www.uaex.edu/life-skills-wellness/health/covid19/COVIDvsFLU.aspx.