BRADENTON — Starting Friday, parents can have their children vaccinated against the H1N1 virus at school.
The Manatee County Health Department announced Tuesday the first seven public school clinics to provide the immunizations to elementary students. They are: Anna Maria Elementary, Friday; Blackburn Elementary, Nov. 9; Bayshore Elementary, Nov. 10; Freedom Elementary, Nov. 12; Braden River Elementary, Nov. 13; Kinnan Elementary Nov. 16; and Tillman Elementary, Nov. 17.
Clinic hours for all seven sites are 3:30-7 p.m., according to information from the health department and Manatee County School District.
“We are targeting our elementary students first as they have been identified as more at-risk than middle and high school age students, as indicated in Manatee County’s laboratory syndromic surveillance data,” said Dr. Jennifer Bencie, health department administrator. ”We expect to have all of the public elementary school clinics scheduled between now and the December holidays.”
At the clinics, health department staff will provide the vaccines to enrolled students whose parents or guardians are in attendance with signed consent forms.
When middle and high school clinics are scheduled at a later date, those students will not be required to have parents present, said Manatee County School District spokeswoman Margi Nanney.
“We chose those seven elementaries based on the number of students there, the cooperation with the principal due to events that may be happening at the school ... there were a number of variables to determine their order,” Bencie said.
An eight-page information packet is being distributed to all Manatee County students this week. It contains the consent form and vaccine information sheets that explain the risks and contradictions associated with any immunization.
Parents who want their children to receive the vaccine will be required to return the consent forms to their school within three days of receiving it. Parents who do not wish to have their children vaccinated can simply not return the form.
The 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.
On Friday, neither the department nor school district representatives knew when the printing of the 50,000 consent forms would be finished and ready for distribution to students.
But on Tuesday, many of the schools had received the packets and were scheduled to be sent home with students, said health department John Burns, spokesman,
Bencie said the department will release another schedule of clinic sites and dates by mid-November based on the availability of the vaccine.
As locations are set, the remaining packets will be sent home. In addition, a message from each school’s principal will be sent.
Sandra Edmoundson, health department nursing director, said health officials will offer the nasal mist vaccine to children
with no underlying medical conditions. All other students will receive an injection, she said.
Parents are urged to read all of the information in the packet and consult their primary care provider if they have questions concerning the H1N1 flu vaccine. Many parents may also opt to have their child vaccinated at their physician’s office.
Children under the age of 10 years are required to receive a second dose of the vaccine. A second clinic will be held after 21 to 28 days.
Initially, officials wanted all consent forms to be returned before they organized clinics at schools.
Epidemiologist Ron Cox said Friday that officials wanted to know how much consent there would be before they knew how much of the vaccine would be needed at the school clinics.
Some county commissioners have voiced concern about the department’s swine flu response in schools.
During commissioners’ comments at the end of their meeting Tuesday, Gwen Brown said she was contacted by a Herald reporter on Friday and later talked to Bencie about her concern in waiting to distribute consent forms.
“I’m very pleased and very comfortable with the way they are managing it (now),” she said.
“The schools and health department were initially going to hold the consent forms and release them all at once but as we talked this out more, we decided it would be better to do it this way,” Bencie said.
The county as of last Friday had received about 22,700 doses.
The Sarasota County Health Department is also set to start issuing swine flu vaccinations at elementary schools on Friday. 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.
For more information, monitor the school district’s Web site for periodic updates at www.manateeschools.net.