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(The Center Square) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that medical professionals and clinicians be on alert for infectious diseases among Afghan nationals recently brought into the country, including measles, mumps and rubella, diseases for which Americans have already been vaccinated.

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Flu season is approaching, and state health officials are encouraging Arkansans to go ahead and get their shots before peak flu season.Infectious disease specialist, Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, and Arkansas Secretary of Health, Dr. Jose Romero, said last year was a milder flu season due to masking and social distancing practices.“Now we're back in school, people are back at work, not as many people are wearing masks or taking the same precautions,” Dillaha said. “We anticipate we'll have more spread of the flu this year, and of course, we still have the spread of COVID.”The flu shot is recommended for people six months and older, with no past severe allergic reactions to the shot. Dillaha said it needs to be taken care of by late October.“So that they have built their immunity before we really get into winter, and the possible circulation of flu in our state,” Dillaha said.Dillaha said for those who haven’t gotten the COVID-19 vaccine yet, they can get both the flu and COVID shot at the same time.“The great benefit of both of those vaccines, of course, is preventing severe disease, keeping people out of the hospital if they're unlucky enough to get the flu or COVID-19,” Dillaha said.Last year, Arkansas reported 23 flu deaths—and Dillaha said some of those people had COVID as well. She fears COVID-19 cases could peak again during winter time, and health officials are concerned about hospital capacity amid the peak of flu season.“We don't want to see a confluence of both influenza hospitalizations and COVID hospitalizations at the same time, that could stress our available beds at this time,” Romero said.Dilllaha said both vaccines are especially important for people who are high risk for severe disease with flu or COVID-19. That includes pregnant women, people with chronic health problems like diabetes or asthma and those 65 and older.The flu shot is also very important for school aged children. Health officials are urging parents to keep their kids home if they’re showing any symptoms of respiratory illness and help avoid schools having to shut down this year.“School children are very good at spreading respiratory viruses among themselves,” Dillaha said. “The more kids in the school who are vaccinated, the less likely that (a shutdown) is to happen, there's less absenteeism.”The Arkansas Department of Health is hosting flu vaccine clinics starting next week. According to a press release from the ADH, each county health unit in Arkansas will be hosting a community flu vaccine clinic, which is typically a day-long event when the health unit and numerous community volunteers come together to provide flu vaccine to as many people as possible.The shot is free, but those with insurance should bring their cards with them. Those interested should contact their nearest health unit for more information. That information can be found at www.healthy.arkansas.gov.After the flu clinics, the vaccines will also be available through the department of health’s local health units in every county—free of charge, along with the COVID-19 vaccine.

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas will not mandate COVID-19 vaccines for school children when a vaccine becomes available for those under the age of 12, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday. The governor said state law bans a public mandate vaccine for any purpose and demographic.It’s possible the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could approve an emergency authorization to Pfizer for vaccines among those between the ages of 5 and 11 by Halloween. Pfizer has provided vaccine trial data to the FDA for proposed vaccine, which would be 10 micrograms compared with the 30-microgram dose used for those 12 and older. The Pfizer vaccine for ages 5 to 11 would also be a two-dose regimen.Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the FDA and a board member at Pfizer, recently said during a CNBC Squawk Box interview that Pfizer could submit to the FDA “very quickly.”“The data came a little earlier than some were expecting and depending on how long the FDA takes to review the application, whether it’s a four-week review or a six-week review, you could have a vaccine available to children as early as probably by the end of October, perhaps it slips a little bit into November,” he said.Hutchinson quickly shot down the idea of a vaccine mandate for public school children if the new vaccine is approved.“The answer is ‘No.’ I mean, we don’t have a mandate for those 12 and above. For the foreseeable future, and under the law of Arkansas, there is not any mandate and will not be any mandate for those age groups,” the governor said.The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) reported that 5.13% of Arkansans 12 and older are fully vaccinated, and 11.8% are partially vaccinated. The ADH data shows 1.312 million Arkansans as fully vaccinated. There were 4,828 Arkansans reported as fully immunized in the previous 24 hours, a number somewhat lower than recent trends. When asked about the recent declines in the daily number of new vaccinations, Hutchinson said it’s important that people understand the vaccine is the best way to stop the virus.“We had some very very high days that we were thrilled with. Now it seems to be settling around 7,000 (daily vaccinations). Some days down, some days up. Concern is not the right word, but I hope that we can keep the focus on the vaccines. The best assurance that we can keep it down would be increasing that vaccine rate even to a higher extent that prepares us for the winter,” he said.The ADH reported Tuesday 1,401 new cases, bringing the cumulative total to 486,853. Active cases fell by 779 to 14,225, and reported deaths rose by 17 to 7,499. Hospitalizations declined by 34 to 993, and COVID patients on ventilators fell by 11 to 278.