Officials gearing up for school H1N1 vaccination clinics

State health and school officials are gearing up to distribute thousands of doses of nasal mist H1N1 vaccines to students across the state, a pair of state officers announced during a Nov. 18 webcast.

Beginning Nov. 30, the Alabama Department of Education will partner with the Alabama Department of Public Health to hold school-based H1N1 vaccination clinics for children younger than 10.

“We begin a major undertaking Nov. 30, when we begin vaccination clinics for children less than 10 years old,” said State Health Officer Donald Williamson. “We hope to complete the vaccinations of students less than 10 years old before the Christmas break.”

Williamson estimated there are between 240,000 and 250,000 students in the state younger than 10 years old, and about 40 or 50 percent of those will take the vaccine.

Shelby County schools began sending home vaccination information packets and consent forms to parents Nov. 16, and school officials across the state will meet with Williamson and State Superintendent Joe Morton to discuss the school clinics Nov. 18.

The H1N1 vaccines will be safe for about 80 percent of students across the state, Williamson said. Children allergic to eggs, younger than 2 years old, or with long-term health problems or weakened immune systems should not receive the vaccine, he said.

Every school in the state will have at least one clinic during the school day before Christmas vacation, Morton said. For children unable to receive the nasal mist vaccines, injectable doses will still be available at county health departments, said Williamson.

As the disease has been linked to 32 deaths across the state, two of which have been in Shelby County, Williamson and Morton urged all eligible students to take the vaccine once the clinics begin.

“We want to give every child equal opportunity to have this vaccine,” Morton said, noting the nasal mist will provide a non-invasive form of vaccine delivery.

“When you get a 5-year-old with no family member in sight, and you have the nicest, sweetest nurse in the world with a needle in her hand, you run the risk of non-compliance,” Morton laughed.