MANATEE — H1N1 vaccine clinics will start at Sarasota County elementary schools Friday, but don’t expect to see them in Manatee County schools anytime soon.
That’s because the Manatee County Health Department is still waiting on parent consent forms to be printed. And the health department said it has not yet set aside any vaccinations for the schools.
“As we get them (vaccines) in, they’re going out to the high-risk groups such as pregnant moms and caretakers for children 6 months and under,” said Ron Cox, epidemiologist for the health department.
Even after the 50,000 or so consent forms are printed, they will need to be delivered to the schools, sent home with children, signed by parents and returned to the health department before officials will determine how to set up vaccine clinics at Manatee schools.
Regardless of whether parents want the swine flu vaccination for their children, the Manatee County Health Department wants all consent forms to be returned before it will organize vaccine clinics at schools.
“We have to get consent first,” Cox said. “But we’d have to know how much consent there is before we know how much vaccine we’ll need” for school clinics.
Gwen Brown, chair of Manatee’s Board of County Commissioners, said she was concerned the health department wants all consent forms returned before going ahead with clinics.
“If you’re going to wait on everybody, that’s like are you waiting on the flu to come,” Brown said. “Not all parents are going to send back a signed slip.”
Brown plans to discuss her concerns Monday with Dr. Jennifer Bencie, director of the Manatee County Health Department.
Commissioner Joe McClash said he plans to bring the issue up for discussion at Tuesday’s county commission meeting.
“I think it’s very timely for the Board of County Commissioners to have an update and brief that gives us confidence that our community is taken care of in light of this possible epidemic of the swine flu,” McClash said. “We will make the inquiry to see if, in fact, there’s something that needs to be expedited.”
The eight-page consent form packets were initially to be sent to schools Oct. 16. Then school district officials expected the forms to be distributed to students at the end of October.
Neither Cox nor Margi Nanney, spokeswoman for the Manatee County School District, knew when the printing of the consent forms would be finished and ready for distribution to students.
“I don’t know what the specific problem is, if there was a problem at all,” Cox said.
The Sarasota County Health Department announced Friday it will start issuing swine flu vaccinations at elementary schools on Nov. 6-7. Consent forms have been delivered to all Sarasota County students.
Dianne Shipley, spokeswoman for the Sarasota County Health Department, said parents of elementary students are asked to bring the consent forms with them to the clinic. Parents of middle and high school students have been asked to mail in their consent forms since those vaccinations will be issued during school hours.
The Sarasota County Health Department has chosen six elementary schools for the clinics. On Nov. 6, vaccinations will be administered from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. On Nov. 7, two elementary schools and two government buildings will issue the vaccine to elementary school-aged children from 10 a.m.-2 p.m..
“We plan to have a supply of vaccine available on both Friday and Saturday so parents can take their time in getting to the clinics,” said Chuck Henry, incident commander for the county’s H1N1 vaccination response.
In a related issue, the Manatee County Health Department said it is receiving a number of calls from pregnant women unable to obtain an H1N1 Swine flu shot from their primary care provider or a secondary source in Manatee County. So the department has contacted all OB/GYN practices in Manatee and offered the vaccine. Every practice has either been provided the vaccine, or given a referral location for their patients.
The health department also said it has scheduled vaccination clinics for pregnant school district employees and pregnant students who wish to be vaccinated.
Cox said he didn’t have the total number of vaccinations Manatee County has received to date nor the number of orders placed. The Bradenton Herald reported Oct. 21 the county had received 4,600 doses of the vaccine — half nasal mist and half injectable.
Sarasota County has received more than 13,000 doses in the nasal mist and injectable forms, of which 4,900 will be assigned to school clinics. In addition, the county has placed an order for 12,000 more vaccinations that it expects to receive in time for next week’s clinics.
The Florida Health Department has left it up to counties to determine how to administer and distribute vaccines based on the area’s needs, said Susan Smith, spokeswoman for the state health department.
“All county health departments certainly know the needs of their local communities and have been working for months to meet those needs,” Smith said.