School H1N1 clinics start today

Published 1:14 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Schools in Covington County will hold H1N1 flu vaccination clinics this week, starting with Guardian Angel Christian Academy this morning, officials at the county health department said.

Covington County Health Service Administrator Ziba Anderson said the clinics will be held this week at all Covington County schools, except for Andalusia Elementary School, which will hold its clinic Mon., Dec. 7, at 8:30 a.m.

Other clinic dates and times are as follows: Guardian Angel Christian Academy, today at 11:15 a.m.; Opp Elementary School, Thursday at 8:30 a.m.; Fleeta School and Bright Beginnings Preschool, Thursday at 11 a.m.; Straughn Elementary School and Pleasant Home School, Friday at 8:30 a.m.; Red Level School and W.S. Harlan Elementary School, Friday at 11:30 a.m.

The school clinics are for children in kindergarten through age 9, whose parents or guardians signed permission forms allowing vaccination.

The clinics will dispense free nasal spray vaccine — not shots — using vaccine made with diluted live virus and free of controversial preservatives. A follow-up vaccine will be required about four weeks later.

Opp Superintendent Michael Smithart said the school’s nursing staff will administer the vaccine.

“We have already distributed permission slips, and we anticipate about 75 kindergarten through third grade students will receive the vaccination,” he said.

Michelle Armstrong, lead school nurse for the Covington County Schools, said parents have already been long notified about the vaccination clinics.

“The consent forms were sent out the week before Thanksgiving and had to be turned in Fri., Nov. 20,” she said. “This week, we’ll send out a few additional letters to parents, just letting them know when and where the vaccinations will be held, and that sort of thing.”

Armstrong said more than 170 students in the county system’s five elementary schools will receive the vaccination. She added that some parents requested the vaccination, but did not qualify based on the state’s guidelines.

The state suggests that parents, whose children have compromised immune systems or have long-term health problems, should take their children to their physician, another health care provider or county health department to obtain the vaccine in shot form. In addition, children who have close contact with a person with a severely weakened immunized system, such as a person requiring care in a protected environment, should not receive the vaccine in nasal mist form.

“The parents have been very positive and cooperative,” Armstrong said. “We screened several consent forms before sending them to the state, and notified parents whose children could not receive the spray vaccine. We’ll be screening the forms again on the day of the clinic, just to be extra safe.”

Armstrong said the schools had started to see an increase in H1N1 flu cases in the days leading up to the Thanksgiving break.

“We’re using every precaution we can,” she said. “We go over things like hand-washing, covering sneezes with your sleeve, and all the guidelines. Our students have been good; you’ll see one child asking another, ‘Are you sure you washed your hands?’

“During the Thanksgiving holidays, our custodians made sure to do some extra cleaning here at the schools, just to make sure.”

Armstrong said state public health department officials would administer the vaccinations. Each school will have a team consisting of two nurses, a clerk and an environmentalist; local school nurses will assist when needed, but will not administer the actual vaccine.

Vaccinations for older children and other Alabamians will likely not come before January, state health officials said.