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Area schools will be H1N1 flu shot sites

Although local superintendents do not know exactly when an H1N1 flu vaccine will be made available, they are already preparing to have their schools ready for students to receive the vaccinations.

Scientists are hard at work at creating a vaccination for the novel H1N1 flu strain, also known as the swine flu, and the state is slated to receive 600,000 doses of the vaccine by October. Once the vaccination is ready, schools across the state will offer voluntary free shots to all children.

Andalusia Superintendent Dr. Beverly McAnulty said the city’s three schools would be ready to inoculate the system’s 1,740 students.

“We have already met to discuss this, and we’ll be meeting again as we get closer to the release of the vaccine,” she said. “Our three schools will be the sites, and we’ll use several rooms to get students through quickly. At the elementary school, we want the parents present, if possible.”

The state has already confirmed more than 1,300 H1N1 flu cases. The strain, which so far has proven to be no worse than seasonal flu, seems to be hitting children and the elderly especially hard.

McAnulty said the system’s nurses are already trained to give shots, but they will also take an additional course specific to administering the H1N1 vaccination.

Opp Superintendent Michael Smithart said his system’s 1,350 students would also have the ability to receive the vaccine at their schools.

“The state department of health is preparing letters and release forms that must be signed by a parent or guardian in order for the student to receive a vaccination,” he said. “Our three schools will serve as sites, and our school nurses will assist with the vaccination and there may be a possibility for our local nursing students to also help.”

Most citizens who receive the vaccination will need two shots, with about three weeks between them. The federal government hopes to have half the U.S. population inoculated by the end of the year.

Terry Holley, interim superintendent with the Covington County Schools, said it is important for schools to be “proactive” in combating the strain.

“We’re going to be assisting the state in getting the necessary information to our parents and students,” said Holley, whose system has about 3,100 students. “We want to make this vaccination available if the parents and students want it, and we want to provide this service to our community.”

The vaccination will be voluntary and parents will be notified well in advance. Smithart said, in some cases, the parents may even be asked to help.

“That’s really the only potential problem, is the parent who might say, ‘well, my child doesn’t like to take shots,’” he said. “To combat this, we will allow the parents of our elementary students to come and assist with their children.”

Superintendents said the vaccination would be available at every school in Covington County.