Michelle Rupp: Welcome back. Joining me now is Heather Mercer of Immunize Arkansas. Heather, thanks for coming in. 

Heather Mercer: Thank you for having me.

MR: My first question will be an obvious one. Tell us about Immunize Arkansas. For people who don’t know, who the organization is and what they do.

HM: Well, Immunize Arkansas is a nonprofit organization. Our mission is to educate and advocate, advocate for immunizations for all Arkansans. A couple of things that we do is we have some focus groups that are our work groups that are focused on priority areas like childhood immunizations and Covid. We also have two summits every year for health care providers and public health professionals. We just had the HPV summit in May and in the fall, we will have a big immunization summit.

MR: Okay, so all things immunizations, if you will. Now, August is national immunization month. Did I get that right?

HM: Yes, August has always recognized as national immunization month and it’s an annual observation that highlights the importance of immunizations. And this year it’s even more important than ever, especially with kids going back to school. And so, a lot of kids may be behind on their school immunizations. Immunizations are one of the most important things that parents can do for their kids and from babies going into day care to a freshman going into college, and everything in between, there may be vaccinations that are required for kids to go to school. So parents need to check with their providers to see what may be required for their kids to go to school and they don’t need to wait until school to find that out.

MR: Is there concern, particularly this year, that vaccines or immunizations aren’t going to be taken this year because they’re just, we’re just tired of it. We don’t want to hear about it anymore.

HM: Well, vaccinations have definitely been in the spotlight more than ever because of COVID in positive and negative ways, and there’s been a lot of misinformation out there because of that. But, I don’t think that it’s going to have a trickle down effect for people not to get their vaccines. One thing that we definitely want to make sure of is that people get their flu vaccine this year because we had such a mild flu season. And part of that was because of all the measures we took to mitigate COVID. You know, we’re wearing masks and social distancing and people were working from home, so we had a very mild flu season. So, I think people are going to think they don’t need to get their flu shot. Well, that is not the case. We definitely need to get our flu vaccine because things have opened back up.

MR: Okay, so bottom line, get those immunizations, get current. Don’t skip them.

HM: Right. Yeah. And we still need to get our COVID vaccine. The delta variant is a real thing. And the people that are getting COVID and dying from it are unvaccinated people. Or under vaccinated.

MR: All right, Heather. Thank you so much for coming in. It’s been great talking with you and hopefully we’ve provided parents with some good takeaway information.