School H1N1 clinics scheduled

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 19, 2009

H1N1 vaccination clinics for school-aged children will begin Dec. 7, according to Health Department officials.

Clinic Supervisor Debbie Baker said the county health department is set to begin the week of Dec. 7.

Local health and school officials have been waiting for the vaccines to come in since mid-October.

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The targeted age group will be students under nine years of age.

Locally, the health department will go to Troy City Schools, Pike County Schools and Pike Liberal Arts School.

Statewide, children will be offered the nasal mist vaccine at on-campus clinics beginning next week.

State Health Officer Don Williamson and state schools Superintendent Joe Morton said at a news conference Wednesday the nasal mist vaccine would be administered at school-based clinics to children in kindergarten to third grade.

Williamson said the vaccine is being given to young children first because two doses are recommended for those 9-years-old and younger. He said the second dose would be given about four weeks after the first is administered.

But older children will have to wait even longer to get vaccinated.

Health Department officials said they expect the vaccine to be offered for older children after Jan. 1.

Williamson said the clinics would be in some schools next week and would be in the majority of schools the week of Nov. 30 to Dec. 4. He recommended that parents allow their children to receive the vaccine unless they are allergic to eggs. He said children with serious chronic health conditions should go to a private doctor or a public health clinic and receive a flu shot rather than the nasal mist.

Children who have already had the swine flu or whose parents believe they have had it still should receive the vaccine. He said there are other viruses that cause similar symptoms to swine flu.

“It is safe to be vaccinated if you have already had it,” Williamson said.

Morton said parents must sign permission forms if they want their children to be vaccinated at the school clinics.

Pike County Schools Superintendent Mark Bazzell said parents should be receiving information packets late this week or early next week.

The packets will include a letter from the Alabama Department of Public Health, cover letter from Bazzell and a Novel Influenza Form, which gives students permission to be vaccinated.

Bazzell said he encourages parents to read the materials carefully.

“Parents should complete this form in its entirety,” Bazzell said. “Some questions are important in determining if vaccine can be administered.”

Bazzell said participation is voluntary, but the school system encourages students to participate.

Pike Liberal Arts School Headmistress Ceil Sikes said she hasn’t received a firm date from county health officials but said she plans to send out the information as soon as she gets confirmation.

Sikes said students aren’t required to receive the vaccine.

“It’s simply voluntary,” Sikes said. “ The public health department is making it available to us.”

Troy City Schools Superintendent Linda Felton-Smith was unavailable for comment.

So far 32 deaths in Alabama have been attributed to the swine flu, also called the H1N1 virus.

Morton said school officials will not force children to receive the vaccine.

“All they have to do is not send the form back,” Morton said.