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Vaccinations at Schools Delayed

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James Gathany, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention James Gathany, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Some elementary clinics completed but middle school and high school will wait 'til December. Absentee rate not a cause for alarm.

Despite concerns yesterday when a number of students were sent home with flu-like symptoms from Washington Elementary in Sandpoint, there's no cause for panic - our elementary schools have not suddenly become swine flu central.

Parents were concerned at the number of students absent (63 students on Tuesday, approximately 20 percent of the school's population) as a vaccination clinic for H1N1(A) - aka swine flu - was held at the school the day prior. A number of students at Washington Elementary received the FluMist nasal spray vaccine in an effort to protect them from the swine flu. District wide, 500 students have already been vaccinated.

The absentee rate at Washington is already moving back to normal. Currently, absentee rates at our area elementary schools are averaging almost eight-and-one-half percent.

Parents of students receiving vaccinations are encouraged to remember what vaccines are designed to do - trick the body into believing it's been infected with a virus in order to trigger an immune response. That immune response can lead to side effects such as fever, headache, muscle aches and nausea. The presence of these side effects, however, does not necessarily indicate you are infected with swine flu.

"The viruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated), so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot," says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The FluMist vaccine contains live, but weakened swine flu virus, which can replicate as long as three weeks. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have stated that the amount of virus shed by people vaccinated with the spray is below what is needed to infect an adult; children are slightly more susceptible. The current estimated risk of getting infected with vaccine virus after close contact with a person vaccinated with the nasal-spray flu vaccine is low (0.6 percent to 2.4 percent). Because the viruses are weakened, infection is unlikely to result in influenza illness since the vaccine viruses have not been shown to mutate into typical or naturally occurring influenza viruses.

If flu-like symptoms are not unexpected after vaccination, why send students home from school? "Because we just don't know," explained LPOSD Superintendent Dick Cvitanich. "District policy, based on recommendations from the CDC, says to send students home if they're exhibiting flu-like symptoms; while those symptoms may well be a mild reaction to being vaccinated, it's also possible a student contracted flu prior to the vaccination. So for the safety of all our students, we send students home with suspect symptoms."

As always, parents concerned about their students' health are encouraged to call their personal physician.

Due to a shortage of vaccine, scheduled vaccination clinics in early November at Sandpoint High School, Sandpoint Middle School and Clark Fork High School were canceled and have currently been rescheduled for December 3 at Sandpoint Middle School and December 7 at the two high schools. Visit the district's website  for further updates.


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Landon Otis

Tagged as:

health, Lake Pend Oreille School District, children, H1N1, swine flu, vaccinations, FluMist, students, Dick Cvitanich, CDC, symptoms

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