2009-08-26 / Front Page

Flu vaccines coming to schools

By David Hart Irregular Staff

SALEM -- Local schools in MSAD #58 may be impacted by medical increasing responsibilities due a state and federal initiative to keep people out of harm's way. The school's agenda may be altered to meet state directed concerns of a potential H1N1 virus (Swine Flu) outbreak which could potentially make a significant comeback this fall.

Local schools, as inaugurated by the Maine Center of Disease Control and the U.S. CDC, may become local immunizations centers in a fight to battle this virus.

"This is going to have an impact on the schools. We are going to follow the recommendations of the state," said Superintendent Quenten Clark. "Everything changes daily … this is speculative and not substantiated, but the state will ask us to run immunization clinics in the school for both regular flu and potentially the swine flu for all of the children."

Obviously the parents will have to consent, Clark said. These things are manpower intensive … and paper-power intensive, Clark reported at a recent school board meeting.

Clark said he believes that they'll partner with one of the area regional health centers to administer the shots. He also said that along with the regular season flu shot, the H1N1 flu vaccine may involve up to two additional shots, meaning that the student coming back to school next year may see three shots administered at school.

Clark said that the H1N1 vaccines may happen after the regular season flu vaccine which is scheduled for the beginning of the year. "The H1N1 immunization may happen in October, maybe November or even December, Clark said.

Between now and Christmas the students and the staff alike may be involved with the administration of three immunizations shots, Clark said.

Hand sanitizers, educational components and other volunteer actions may also be imposed.

"Maine has identified 354 cases of H1N1, which includes one individual who has died," said the Maine CDC as of Aug. 19.

According to the Franklin County Heath Network sources, there are no confirmed cases at this time in Franklin County.

"Obviously if we get an outbreak at schools, we'll close schools. That's again speculative and depends on the number of students that are affected," Clark said. Again, he stated, they'll follow state protocol.

The H1N1 vaccination process is scheduled to be federally funded. It is the intent to distribute the vaccines to eventually immunize every citizen in the United States.

It is uncertain if district employees will have vaccine offerings at the time the student distribution arrives.

The MCDC says that all of the vaccinations may not arrive all at once. A priority list has been established which starts with pregnant women, household members with kids under six months old and children ages six months and older to 24-year-old adults. The priority list continues to adults at risk of medical complications as a result of the flu and so on.

"The H1N1 vaccine is not intended to replace the seasonal flu vaccine - -it is intended to be used in addition to seasonal flu vaccines to protect people. At this point in time, there is no evidence that vaccinations will be mandatory," the Maine CDC reports.

For more information about this disease and the immunization process, people can visit the U.S. Center of Disease Control Web site, www.cdc.gov, as well as dozens of other informational Web sites on the Internet.

The MCDC general public call-in number is 1-888- 257-0990 or people can email questions to the MCDC at, Sue.Dowdy@maine.gov. The department's Web site is www.maine.gov/dhhs/boh.

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