Schools may be flu shot centers

WASHINGTON — Hundreds of schools are heeding the government’s call to set up flu-shot clinics this fall, preparing for what could be the most widespread school vaccinations since the days of polio.

A review of swine flu planning suggests there are nearly 3 million students in districts where officials want to offer the vaccine once federal health officials begin shipping it in mid-October.

Many more may get involved: The National School Boards Association said three-quarters of the districts in a recent survey agreed to allow vaccinations in school buildings.

After talks with state health officials, Nevada Superintendent of Public Instruction Keith Rheault said last week that mass inoculations might be made available to students on a voluntary basis. He said the shots “would be pretty wide scale, free of charge and possibly implemented at each school.”

Plans are not yet finalized, Rheault said, “but it’s the possibility, depending on the (case) numbers and what’s happening across the country.”

He said education and health officials worry that the virus could spread quickly when kids are back in school. “The fear is that (the virus) will mushroom and explode,” Rheault said.

In South Carolina, “there will be a massive attempt to use schools as vaccination centers,” said state Superintendent Jim Rex. He plans at least one vaccination clinic in each of the state’s 85 school districts.

South Dakota started offering free children’s vaccination against regular winter flu in 2007, and this year it plans to offer both kinds in many schools, said state Health Secretary Doneen Hollingsworth.

Now come the difficult details: figuring out all the logistics in giving squirmy youngsters a shot in the arm or a squirt in the nose.

That’s in addition to measures being taken to keep the swine flu virus from spreading inside schools and to keep sick kids at home.

Already, Lee County, Miss., schools have reported a few cases of swine flu the first week of school, and a Louisiana high school football team reported 20 players sick or recovering from it.

To make sure students wash their hands, Minneapolis schools have outfitted every restroom with tamperproof soap dispensers, so students don’t horse around with soap. And the district has a “no excuses” policy to keep them filled.

Bismarck, N.D., is insisting that parents keep feverish children home. “We’re going to have to be a little firmer on that this year than in the past,” superintendent Paul Johnson said.

It can be hard to tell if a child has a bad cold or flu, and swine flu and regular flu share the same symptoms. For many schools, a 100-degree temperature automatically means sending a child home.

The goal is to keep schools open; federal officials said last week schools should close only as a last resort. The emergence of the never-before-seen flu strain last spring prompted more than 700 schools to temporarily close, giving students an unexpected vacation as parents scrambled to find child care.

Some big states, like California, Ohio and Massachusetts, are focusing on those steps and not on vaccinations, because they don’t know how much vaccine the federal government will send or when it will arrive. Boston has decided against in-school vaccinations because an attempt at regular winter flu inoculations at a middle school last year flopped, and Dallas officials also have decided against school shots.

But hundreds of districts are preparing for vaccinations. At least 700 health and school officials joined an online seminar last week by the National Association of County & City Health Officials on how to run school flu vaccinations.

The government is awaiting results of vaccine studies that began last week before making a final decision on whether and how to offer swine-flu inoculations. If vaccinations go forward, children are to be among the first in line. They could get vaccine at a variety of places, but federal officials want schools to play a starring role.

“The vaccine over time will be available to every child,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said. “And I personally think the best place for them to have access would be at their local school or at a school in their neighborhood.”

An AP-GfK poll last month found parents like that convenience: Nearly two-thirds said they would probably give permission if their child’s school offered vaccinations.

The school setting is attractive for many reasons, said Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Swine flu seems to strike the young most often, and it’s particularly easy to spread from child to child. Moreover, school-age children “don’t see doctors very often,” Schuchat said, after they’ve accumulated the list of vaccinations required for school entry.

She added that it should be relatively easy for schools to offer flu-shot clinics because the federal government would be buying swine flu vaccine and sending it free to states.

There is plenty of experience with vaccinating school kids for regular flu, and there is plenty of evidence it works.

For the fourth year running, Knox County, Tenn., vaccinated 30,000 children for free in schools and day care centers last year. The county often closed schools because of winter flu outbreaks in the past, but it hasn’t since vaccinations began.

And in the last flu pandemic, in 1968, Tecumseh, Mich., vaccinated 85 percent of its school-age children, resulting in two-thirds less illness there than in a neighboring community.

There is an important difference with this year’s swine flu inoculations: Health officials think two separate doses, about three weeks apart, will be needed. Studies are under way now to confirm that. If so, it means any school that offers the first shot must set up for each recipient to get the second dose.

Different school districts handle vaccinations differently. Some will offer only vaccine against the regular winter flu, also important, as both types are expected to hit this year. In Florida’s Pinellas County, which includes St. Petersburg, the health department won an economic stimulus grant to vaccinate every student at all 78 elementary schools against seasonal flu, said Rita Becchetti, supervisor of school health services.

That could be confusing for parents trying to remember which vaccine their child is getting.

Chicago, on the other hand, probably will have swine flu shot clinics at select high schools, not elementary schools, saying it simply doesn’t have the workers to send teams to more than 600 schools.

Berkeley County, W.Va., is considering drive-through vaccinations at its three high schools, district official George Michael said.

In New York City, swine flu exploded in the spring at Saint Francis Preparatory School, which sent home 102 sick kids in one day. Today, City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley’s first choice is for kids to get vaccinated by their own family doctors, but he’s looking into clinics at schools or other locations.

“There’s an awful lot of children who need to be vaccinated,” Farley said.

Once the decision is made to offer flu shots at school, there are still issues to be worked out.

Not only must a parent sign a permission form, but someone needs to make sure it’s filled out correctly and matches up with the kid. And there is staffing: Health professionals will need to administer shots and also check kids for reaction to the vaccine.

Schools will also need to decide whether parents should be present, said Brenda Greene, director of school health programs for the National School Boards Association.

“Are you going to do it at a time when the parents can be present, if they want?” Greene said. “I’ve heard the kids are more panicky when their parents are around than when they’re not.”

Knox County, Tenn., has always used FluMist, the nasal spray flu vaccine, to eliminate that concern, and will again this year in school vaccinations against regular flu. But most of the swine flu vaccine supply will be in shot form, and program director Jennifer Johnson hasn’t decided whether to offer that in schools, too. She said one possibility is to inoculate kids at elementary schools after hours, so parents could hold scared youngsters and then be vaccinated themselves.

The nasal spray is popular. Last year, FluMist maker MedImmune said it sent about 450,000 doses of the nasal spray vaccine to 140 school vaccination programs. The company expects FluMist vaccinations against regular winter flu to nearly double in schools this year.

Duncan, the education secretary, understands the more immediate issue for many schools is the start of the new school year. Once kids are back in class, “you want to get parents focused on the vaccine,” he said.

In St. Paul, Minn., vaccinations are on the back burner until school gets under way after Labor Day, said Ann Hoxie, assistant director of student health and wellness.

“It’s not going to be the first thing on everybody’s mind. Reading and writing remain at the top of the list,” Hoxie said.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal contributed to this report.

News
Nature Conservancy Ranch
The Nature Conservancy just bought the 900-acre 7J Ranch at the headwaters of the Amargosa River, north of Beatty. The property could become a research station, though ranching will continue.
Swift water rescue at Durango Wash in Las Vegas
On Thursday, February 14, 2019, at approximately 8:42 a.m., the Clark County Fire Department responded to a report of a swift water incident where people were trapped in the Durango wash which is located near 8771 Halcon Ave. Personnel found one person who was trapped in the flood channel. The individual was transported to the hospital in stable condition. Video by Clark County Fire & Rescue.
Flooding at E Cheyenne in N. Las Vegas Blvd.
Quick Weather Around the Strip
Rain hits Las Vegas, but that doesn't stop people from heading out to the Strip. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries. The Cleveland Clinic will begin researching the brains of retired bull riders to understand the impact traumatic brain injuries have on cognition. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Matt Stutzman shoots arrows with his feet
Matt Stutzman who was born without arms shoots arrows with his feet and hits the bullseye with remarkable accuracy. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Secretary of Air Force Emphasizes the Importance of Nellis AFB
US Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson visited Nellis Air Force Base during Red Flag training and described how important the base is to the military.
Former Northwest Academy student speaks out
Tanner Reynolds, 13, with his mother Angela McDonald, speaks out on his experience as a former student of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff member Caleb Michael Hill. Hill, 29, was arrested Jan. 29 by the Nye County Sheriff’s Office on suspicion of child abuse.
Former Northwest Academy students speak out
Tristan Groom, 15, and his brother Jade Gaastra, 23, speak out on their experiences as former students of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff and excessive medication.
Disruption At Metro PD OIS Presser
A man claiming to be part of the press refused to leave a press conference at Metro police headquarters, Wednesday January 30, 2019. Officers were forced to physically remove the man. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience after the city began operating around the clock. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Las Vegas parts ways with operator of homeless courtyard
Jocelyn Bluitt-Fisher discusses the transition between operators of the homeless courtyard in Las Vegas, Thursday Jan. 24, 2019.(Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police and Raiders partner with SafeNest
Las Vegas police and the Raiders partner with SafeNest on Project Safe 417 (the police code for domestic violence is 417). The program partners trained SafeNest volunteer advocates with Metropolitan Police Department officers dispatched to domestic violence calls, allowing advocates to provide immediate crisis advocacy to victims at the scene of those calls. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
North Las Vegas police chief discusses officer-involved shooting
North Las Vegas police chief Pamela Ojeda held a press conference Thursday, Jan. 24, regarding an officer-involved shooting that took place on Jan. 21. The incident resulted in the killing of suspect Horacio Ruiz-Rodriguez. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Volunteers gather for annual Clark County homeless count
Volunteers gather for the annual Southern Nevada Homeless Census, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who can understand hospital price lists?
Lists of costs for procedures, drugs and devices are now posted the websites of hospitals to comply with a new federal rule designed to provide additional consumer transparency. Good luck figuring out what they mean.
People in Mesquite deal with a massive power outage
People in Mesquite respond to a major power outage in the area on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Group helping stranded motorists during power outage
A group of Good Samaritans are offering free gas to people in need at the Glendale AM/PM, during a massive power outage near Mesquite on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen falls at Las Vegas parade
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada fell and injured her wrist at the Martin Luther King Day parade in Las Vegas on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Local astronomers host super blood wolf moon viewing
The Las Vegas Astronomical Society paired with the College of Southern Nevada to host a lunar eclipse viewing Sunday night. Known as the super blood wolf moon, the astronomical event won't occur for another 18 years. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Tate Elementary shows academic progress after categorical funding
Students at Tate Elementary in Las Vegas has benefited from a program to boost education funding in targeted student populations, known as categorical funding. One program called Zoom helps students who have fallen below grade level in reading. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
The third annual Women’s March in Las Vegas
The third annual Women’s March in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @btesfaye
First former felon to work for Nevada Department of Corrections
After his father died, Michael Russell struggled for years with drug addiction. When he finally decided to change for good, he got sober and worked for years to help others. Now he is the first former felon to be hired by the Nevada Department of Corrections. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Three Square helps TSA workers
Three Square Food Bank donated over 400 care bags to TSA workers affected by the government shutdown Wednesday, filled with food, personal hygiene products and water.
Las Vegas furniture store donates to Clark County firehouses
Walker Furniture donated new mattresses to all 30 Clark County firehouses in the Las Vegas Valley, starting today with Station 22. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mount Charleston Gets Heavy Snow, Fog
Mount Charleston saw heavy snow today, and fog in lower elevations as a cold front swept across the Las Vegas Valley. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Krystal Whipple arrested in Arizona
Krystal Whipple, charged in the killing of a Las Vegas nail salon manager over a $35 manicure, is expected to return to Nevada to face a murder charge.
Holocaust survivor on acceptance
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, talks about the most important message for people to understand from her life and experiences.
Holocaust survivor speaks about telling her story
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, tells of opening up about her experiences during Sunday’s event at Temple Sinai.
Jesus Jara State of the Schools address
Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara delivers his State of the Schools address on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
ad-high_impact_4
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing