Program gives flu vaccine to students
For more information
Parents of students at Madison, Jackson and Wilson elementary schools in Janesville should fill out and return forms sent home this week regarding FluMist. For more information, parents can call (608) 743-5097.
JANESVILLE Elementary students at three Janesville schools will be able to get the FluMist nasal vaccine free during school under a new pilot program.
Parents of students at Madison, Jackson and Wilson elementary schools need to give permission and fill out a health questionnaire before students would receive the vaccine in late October, said Mat Haeger, district manager of health and safety.
The Centers for Disease Control is strongly recommending all kids receive a flu vaccine, so district officials thought the program would be a way to encourage vaccination, he said.
The state is providing 800 vaccines for free. If all are not used at the three schools, the rest could be given at a fourth school in November, he said.
Students who have asthma or other respiratory problems, those on long-term aspirin therapy or with an autoimmune illness are among those who can't receive FluMist, he said.
FluMist is recommended for healthy people ages 2 though 49 because the vaccine includes the live virus, said Karen Cain, health officer at the Rock County Health Department. People with long-term health problems would be at risk because their immune system does not respond as well to the live virus, she said.
District officials chose the FluMist over the injectable vaccine mainly because they didn't want to disrupt learning and have students crying over receiving a shot without a parent present, he said.
Studies show the immune response to the FluMist is stronger and lasts longer, he said.
The vaccines will be given by school nurses and supervised student nurses during the school day.
At least one parent raised a concern for the children who can't receive the FluMist. In theory, the potential exists for those children to get the flu from other children who had just received the live virus in FluMist, Haeger said.
Haeger spoke with state officials, who said they couldn't find anything to indicate that students who receive FluMist would infect others. The vaccines will be given away from the classrooms, so unvaccinated kids won't be exposed to a child sneezing right after receiving the vaccine, he said.
Last year, vaccination went "very well" when the district gave 300 doses of H1N1 nasal vaccines to students at Wilson and Jackson elementary schools, Haeger said. The district didn't have any data on attendance or other impact of those doses.
"The issue here is to try to get a high percentage of kids vaccinated, (and) doing it right during the day is what the literature is saying provides an opportunity for a higher percentage," he said.
Officials will evaluate how the process goes this fall to see what could be done to enhance the program next year, Haeger said.
"I think it is a key strategy to keep kids in school, which is important for learning," he said.