Funding provided by the tobacco tax, passed during recent legislative session, along with federal funds, has allowed local school districts statewide to offer the seasonal flu shot to children, grades K-12, beginning in mid-October.
Each year in the United States, over 200,000 are hospitalized and 36,000 die because of flu infection.
This fall will be the first time for Salem Schools to offer the flu shot.
"We are happy to partner with the local county health department to offer the seasonal flu shot," said Ken Rich, superintendent of Salem Schools. Administering shots in school has not been an annual practice within the school systems, however provisions are being made to ensure that the process is successful.
"It's been years since shots have been given in school. I think it will run smooth," Rich said. Salem Schools will send a letter to parents within the next two weeks informing them of the flu shot availability, followed by a consent form, which must be signed before their child is allowed to take the shot, Rich said.
"If a student is going to have a shot in the elementary, Salem administration asks that a parent be present." Rich said. The administration is considering applying that rule to the entire school, he said.
Salem Schools plan to administer the flu shots in late October, Rich said.
Oct. 26, at ICC, all children and staff will receive a flu shot. A letter that each must sign will be sent home in the next couple of weeks. It is not a mandatory shot, but will be available. Shots will be administered by the Izard County Health Unit, Fred Walker, superintendent of Izard County Consolidated said.
Mammoth Spring Schools is scheduled to administer shots on Oct. 30. A letter will be sent home with information about the flu shot and then a follow-up permission form sent prior to the date. "No students will be administered shots in the state without parental consent," said Ron Taylor, superintendent of Mammoth Spring Schools. "It's simply a service being offered to the kids and the faculty and staff if available."
"Seasonal flu shots are not required for children to attend school, but they are highly recommended," according to a press release from the Arkansas Department of Health.
"Protecting Arkansas children from the flu is an important part of our continuing success in improving economic conditions in our state, both short-term and long-term," said Gov. Mike Beebe in the release. "The more people we can vaccinate in Arkansas, the harder it will be for the virus to spread through our state."
Although emphasis has been placed on receiving a flu shot this year, it will not protect against H1N1.
"The seasonal flu shot will not protect against the novel H1N1 influenza A (Swine Flu) virus," the release said. "There is a separate vaccination that is currently being produced to combat H1N1 influenza A."
If a flu shot is in your future, it is suggested that it be taken ahead of the flu season.
"The best time to be immunized is between mid-October and mid-November. This allows the body's immunity to peak during the height of the influenza season, which is generally December through March. Children nine years and younger who have never received a seasonal flu shot before will need a second seasonal flu shot for full protection. Parents will need to contact a local ADH health unit or health care provider to arrange for a second shot four weeks after the first shot," the release said.
The flu is passed through coughing or sneezing or touching a hard surface with the virus on it and then touching the nose or mouth. Those who have severe allergy to eggs or previous onset of Guillain-Barre syndrome (a disorder in which the body's immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system) should not take a flu shot, the release said.