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Gov. Hutchinson encouraging Arkansans to get flu shot

With flu season now underway, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson is encouraging residents to take the virus seriously and take proper safety precautions.

ARKANSAS, USA — Governor Asa Hutchinson and State Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero are asking Arkansans to get their flu shot early, saying they're concerned COVID-19 and the flu could impact Arkansas hospitals this winter.

Governor Hutchinson began his weekly statewide press conference by getting his flu shot, hoping to lead by example.

"The purpose of Dr. Romero and I getting our flu shot publicly is just to encourage everyone and remind everyone the importance that flu season is here," Gov. Hutchinson said.

The governor says he is worried about an increase in cases like what we had in 2018. 

"We had 228 who died from the flu in Arkansas and that's the deadliest year under our records," Gov. Hutchinson said. 

In 2020, Arkansas had 23 flu-related deaths. The governor says social distancing and wearing masks because of the pandemic also helped keep flu numbers down.

However, masks are no longer required, and health officials are worried ahead of the upcoming season.

"We don't want to have twindemics. Spikes with both COVID and the flu," Dr. Romero said. "Children infants, adolescents, and adults. They should receive the vaccine. They should receive it now before flu season actually starts. We don't want to extra stress on our healthcare system on top of COVID." 

Children as young as six months can receive a flu shot.

While the governor is encouraging flu vaccinations, Hutchinson is still asking Arkansans to roll up their sleeves for the COVID-19 vaccine. He says data shows over 86% of all COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths since February are from those who are unvaccinated.

"Reminder, if you want to go with the odds, if you want to go with the science, you want to go with the data that is compelling evidence to get vaccinated," Gov. Hutchinson said.

Flu shots are free at most pharmacies and at any Department of Health location statewide.

RELATED: What's the timeline for young kids getting COVID shots after FDA panel vote?

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