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Health experts expect tough winter season ahead since decent number of Arkansans still refuse to get vaccinated against Covid-19

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With the winter season ahead of us, state health experts believe the upcoming winter might end up to be difficult period for everyone especially for healthcare workers.

The main reason for that is that many Arkansans still remain vaccine hesitant and refuse to get vaccinated against Covid-19 despite the fact that both the Covid-19 and flu vaccine are efficient.

There are some that follow their yearly routine and are getting the flu shot every season, but refuse to get vaccinated against Covid-19. However, a decent number of Arkansans refuse to get the both shots and that’s what worries the health experts.

“We are hoping that people will get both if they haven’t gotten the COVID-19 vaccine already, you can get them at the same time,” Dr. Jennifer Dillaha with the Arkansas Department of Health said.

On average, 768,105 Arkansans get their flu shot per year. According to the ADH, 765,880 got the flu shot during the 2018-2019 season, 805,505 during the 2019-2020 season and 732,929 during the 2020-2021 season.

What experts are noting is that there are some groups of people that are required to get both of the vaccines to remain completely safe from both the seasonal flu and the Covid-19.

Dillaha said that those groups especially include those aged more than 65, pregnant woman, people with chronic health problems such as diabetes or asthma.

She added that school children are proven to spread viruses much easier compared to adults and that those eligible for Covid-19 vaccination should get vaccinated if we want to avoid the last year’s scenario with the deadly virus.

What comes as an alarming fact is the thing that children usually end up with light or no symptoms at all. However, they spread the viruses easily to adults without even knowing they are sick. Another recommendation for parents is to keep children home at any cost if they show any kinds of symptoms, just to make sure that the viruses won’t be spread at schools.

According to the data provided by the Arkansas Department of Health, last year a total of 2,180 flu cases were reported and confirmed, but as other flu seasons, this data is far by the actual number of cases during a season.

From Sept. 27, 2020, to April 20, 2021, 252,467 cases of COVID-19 were reported.

“The Pfizer vaccine has been shown to protect people from getting symptomatic COVID about 80% of the time with the Delta variant in studies that have been done, about 80% of the people who get the COVID-19 will not have symptoms at all,” Dillaha said. “With the flu on a good year, about 60% of the people who get the flu shot will not have symptoms at all.”

Dillaha said 23 flu deaths were reported last flu season, and some of those deaths were reported to have COVID-19 as well. During the 2019-2020 season, Arkansas reported 125 flu-related deaths.

During flu season from Sept. 27, 2020, to April 20, 2021, Arkansas reported 4,398 COVID-19 deaths.

“You just don’t want both at the same time, and if people do get the vaccine, their chances of getting the flu are reduced, and the chances that they would end up in the hospital is much reduced,” Dillaha said.

The hospitals seem to be prepared and operate beyond their initial limits, something that the state officials have been working in the months before the Delta wave. However, if the number of flu and Covid-19 cases explode during the winter, it’s questionable if the hospitals can meet and respond to that situation.

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