H1N1 vaccinations planned in local schools

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By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

INDEPENDENCE — Local schools are planning to offer vaccinations for the H1N1 virus beginning this week.

Galax Public Schools will provide free H1N1 FluMist vaccine to students during school hours on Friday, while Grayson and Carroll schools plan to offer vaccinations next week.

The vaccine will either be administered through the nose or by injection, depending on the child's medical status.

Grayson School Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Thomas updated the school board during its regular meeting Oct. 12 that to date the school system has had 65 confirmed cases of type A influenza.

While they are not confirmed to be what is more commonly known as the swine flu, Thomas said it was very "probable" that each was.

The school system is working with the Mount Rogers Health District and Virginia Department of Education to provide vaccinations at the school system on Oct. 29-30.

Thomas said the health district would be providing a team of five people that will travel from school to school to provide the vaccinations to the students.

"Parents will be receiving information about vaccinations and be provided permission forms to participate," Thomas continued.

Once the first round of vaccines are provided, the health department will return two or three weeks later to provide a second vaccination — required for children age 9 and younger.

Thomas added that health department officials would be providing the vaccines with the school system's personnel assisting.

The health department is also considering providing the regular flu vaccines at the same time they provide the second dose of the H1N1.

Board Member Shannon Holdaway questioned if there were any cost to the students and whether the vaccine would be the live virus and/or done by nasal?

Thomas said the vaccines will be free of charge and that the health department — at this point — believes the vaccines will be a combination with some students, depending on their age, receiving the nasal mist and others getting an actual vaccination.

"We're not definite on how those will be," she said. "But it will be one or the other."

On a positive note regarding the H1N1 cases, Thomas said the cases within the school system have been "relatively mild" and most students have returned within two, three or four days with the longest case lasting about one week. One student was hospitalized, but Thomas said that occurred as a result of further complications.

"The cases have been much milder than what the doctors expected it to be," she said.

Consent forms have been sent home with students and must be completed by parents who want to have their child vaccinated.

No vaccinations will be given without completed consent forms. Parents who have not received consent forms and wish to have their child vaccinated should contact the principal of their child's school.

• For more information on the Swine Flu visit the Virginia Department of Health's Web site www.vdh.state.va.us or call its' Hotline at (877) ASK-VDH3.