Flu Shot Drive Serves as First Statewide Test for Pandemic

LITTLE ROCK, AR - A free, statewide flu shot shot campaign could offer Arkansans protection in the coming winter and may provide proof that the state can handle a widespread epidemic.

Officials say 32,070 people received the vaccines as of yesterday afternoon, the first day of the three-day trial.  While providing protection for the upcoming flu season, officials are following the steps the state would go through if struck by a disease like the 1918 flu pandemic.  But like any planning, officials acknowledge it can only go so far.

Last Friday, officials say officers from the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission transported the flu vaccines to 81 sites in the state where the shot will be given.  Plans call for wildlife officers to be the backup delivery agency in charge of shots in case of a pandemic, as other police agencies likely would be tied up.

The 1918 pandemic, triggered by a bird virus that mutated into one affecting humans, killed 50 million people worldwide in a matter of months.  In Arkansas, incomplete records prevented any accurate tally of how many people died from the pandemic.

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