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Nov 13, 2009 10:10 AM by sleonard

H1N1 vaccine offered to Vermilion schools after holiday break

Vermilion Parish School System Begins H1N1 Flu Vaccinations After Thanksgiving Break:

(Abbeville, LA) Randy Schexnayder, Superintendent of Schools for Vermilion Parish announced that H1N1 vaccinations for students will begin when students return from Thanksgiving vacation. "Everyone needs annual flu protection because the influenza virus changes from year to year" he announced. "This year especially, attention to vaccinations is critical, as the 2009 H1N1 virus continues to spread and is not preventable with the seasonal flu shot. Vaccinations will be available at all high schools in the parish for students Pre-K through 8th grade between the hours of 3PM and 6PM (to accommodate working parents). Shots will be given in two phases: Phase I will be for students in Pre-K through 8th grade. As vaccines are delivered, Phase II will be scheduled for 9th grade through 12th grade students. Phase II will begin once the 2009 H1N1 vaccine supply increases, likely later in December or January."

Schexnayder continued, "All parents will receive a packet of information explaining the H1N1 vaccine and a consent form. In addition, parents can visit the Vermilion Parish website at www.vrml.k12.la.us to download the packet and consent form. The consent form must be brought to the site when the child receives the vaccine and a parent or guardian must accompany the child. Parents will be notified by phone through the school messaging system to inform them of the exact dates of H1N1 vaccinations."

Vaccinations are being given through a partnership between the Vermilion Parish School Board and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals' Office of Public Health. Because the vaccine is a federal asset handled by the state and designated vaccine providers, there is no cost to the students for the vaccine.

Answering concerns about H1N1 vaccine safety, DHH Region 4 Medical Director Dr. Tina Stefanski said, "This vaccine was made and licensed utilizing the same production methods as the seasonal flu vaccine, which has been used safely for decades." The 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine is being manufactured in several formulations. Some formulations contain the preservative thimerosal and some do not, as is the case with the seasonal flu vaccine. The live attenuated version of the vaccine, which is administered intranasally (through the nose), does not contain thimerosal. None of the seasonal or 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccines currently licensed and distributed by the U.S. government contains adjuvants. This means that none of these influenza vaccines contains squalene or aluminum. Dr. Stefanski reminds parents that vaccination is the best way to prevent influenza infection and its complications.

National statistics show a substantial number of pediatric deaths, underscoring the importance of children getting the vaccine. Since April, there have been 129 pediatric deaths associated from the flu, compared to about 80 per year, on average, for regular seasonal flu. In addition, national trends have shown that individuals with asthma or diabetes, along with pregnant women, are at the highest risk for complications from 2009 H1N1.

Dr. Stefanski urges that children with health conditions like asthma, diabetes, neuromuscular and neurological disorders that place them at high risk for influenza-related complications should be vaccinated now and not wait for the school vaccination effort. For a list of public health units, clinics and private providers offering the H1N1 vaccine, go to www.FightTheFluLa.com.

Schexnayder concluded, "We are offering these vaccinations so we can keep our students healthy and in school. To date, more than 59,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered to Louisiana residents, with numbers growing every day. We think this is a very important program and urge all parents to have their children vaccinated. Parents can check with their family pediatrician if they have further questions. Private and parochial school children are invited to participate in the Vermilion Parish School vaccination program as well."

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