Free H1N1 vaccinations
- Shots reserved for children ages 3-19
- 4-7 p.m. Thursday, Chestatee High School, 3005 Sardis Road
- 4-7 p.m. Dec. 16, C.W. Davis Middle School, 4450 Hog Mountain Road, Flowery Branch
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After a delay of several weeks, vaccinations for the H1N1 flu will soon be available at a school near you.
With written parental consent, all children ages 3 to 19 will be able to receive a free H1N1 flu shot Thursday afternoon at Chestatee High School or Dec. 16 at C.W. Davis Middle School. District 2 Public Health is providing the vaccinations and will provide more in January during the school day to students with parent-signed permission slips. Parents may visit Hall County schools’ Web site at www.hallco.org to download a permission slip.
Dave Palmer, public information officer for District 2 Public Health, said the health department had hoped to provide H1N1 flu vaccinations through schools in November, but there was a delay in receiving the vaccines. He said the department received a large shipment of vaccines last week and he expects there will be no shortage to cover the youth who show up at the December and January school vaccine distributions. Palmer said the school vaccination program is open only to ages 3 to 19, but the restrictions on who can receive the vaccine may be relaxed as more becomes available.
Palmer said though the health department gives free H1N1 vaccines daily, the afternoon vaccination program will allow parents to get their child vaccinated at a familiar place without interrupting their work day or children’s school routines. "We want to make sure that we get that risk group vaccinated and protected against flu," he said. "... This strain of flu is having more adverse affects on younger people. They are more hospitalized from the H1N1 virus, so it’s best to get ahead and get your child vaccinated from the virus."
While symptoms of the H1N1 flu are typically mild, health officials and educators are hoping most children will get the vaccination to prevent the spreading of the flu and boost school attendance.
Mamie Coker, health director for Hall County schools, said H1N1 flu in Hall schools peaked in September. Several schools briefly had absenteeism rates of 10 percent or more; typical absenteeism rates range from 4 percent to 6 percent, she said.
"We’re still above our base line," Coker said. "It’s still out there, it’s just not at the high levels we were seeing earlier this fall."
She said the school system also experienced a wave of H1N1 cases this spring, as well as the regular flu that tends to strike hardest in February. One school had an absenteeism rate of 22 percent during that period this year, she said. When a school’s absentee rate is above 10 percent, the school system is required to report it to state agencies.
"We saw about 10 percent (absenteeism) for two days and then it went back down a little," she said of the spring and fall waves of flu. "We didn’t see that trend of it going back through families and affecting feeder schools."
She said she believes the district’s efforts to teach students about hand hygiene and to send them home early when they were showing signs of sickness helped mitigate the spread of flu.
Coker recommends parents speak with their child’s pediatrician to determine if the H1N1 flu vaccine is best for their child. But there have not yet been any negative reactions from those who have received the vaccine, she said.
"Maybe just a little muscle soreness is what we’re hearing, but nothing remarkable across the board," she said. "... It’s totally parents’ option whether their child gets the vaccine."
To prevent muscle soreness after getting the shot, Coker recommends giving children a Tylenol or ibuprofen pain reliever, but not aspirin, before administration. She said the dates for the January vaccinations to be given at school during the school day have not yet been determined.
Two other area school systems, Forsyth and Dawson counties, also will offer free H1N1 shots at schools this month.