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Published: Thursday, 10/15/2009

Oregon schools to use gym, library to vaccinate students

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Health commissioner Dr. David Grossman says the loss of class time for student vaccinations will be worth it. Health commissioner Dr. David Grossman says the loss of class time for student vaccinations will be worth it.
MORRISON / BLADE PHOTO Enlarge

Oregon City Schools will soon be turning their school libraries and gymnasiums into health clinics.

The district that had the first confirmed case of swine flu in Lucas County is scheduled to be the first to have immunization clinics in its buildings.

"We've got a plan set up that we anticipate will take three days for our district," Superintendent Michael Zalar said.

Preschool through high students whose parents sign a consent form for them to receive the H1N1 vaccination will be given the first round of shots Oct. 26 at Fassett Middle School and Starr and Jerusalem elementaries, Oct. 27 at Eisenhower Middle School and Wynn and Coy elementaries, and Nov. 4 at Clay High School.

Dr. David Grossman, Toledo-Lucas County health commissioner, said he planned to meet with school leaders from across the county today to work out any final kinks in the plan to vaccinate Lucas County's 88,000 school-age children over the next six to eight weeks.

He said he hoped to have a schedule for school clinics finalized by Friday.

While some superintendents have been leery about letting children out of class to get a flu shot, Dr. Grossman said the half hour or so it will take to get them immunized is a worthwhile investment of class time.

"I see their point that they're there to educate, but you can't educate a kid who's out sick or dies," Dr. Grossman said. "Being out of class for a half hour is far less disruptive than 20 percent of the school body being out sick."

The health commissioner said he knows that some parents may decline to have their child immunized against the H1N1 virus, but he hopes to change their minds too.

"I would say I'm strongly encouraging parents to let their kids get a flu shot," he said. "It turns out this flu is a little unique and little kids are more likely to get it."

He said the H1N1 immunization was developed like any other shot for influenza. It's safe, it will protect children from the swine flu, and it will help minimize the spread of the flu to other groups, he said.

"If parents are willing to get a [seasonal] flu shot, this is as safe as a flu shot," Dr. Grossman said. "It's made the same way by the same companies."

Children under age 10 will need a second shot, which the health department hopes to administer at the schools about a month after the first, Dr. Grossman said.

In Oregon, Mr. Zalar said parents who want to be there when their child is vaccinated will be welcome to come to school that day.

The district is lining up volunteers to help with the clinics, which could provide free immunizations for 3,900 students.

Because the first two Oregon students were confirmed to have the H1N1 virus, Mr. Zalar said the district has seen "a little bit of a spike" in absenteeism. He said the district planned to send letters home to parents with children at Coy and Starr elementary buildings where one student at each building has been confirmed to have the swine flu.

"It continues to work its way through our community and our region," he said.

Health departments in Lucas and Wood counties began immunizing front-line health-care providers this week, although Wood County will not hold school clinics.

Pat Snyder, spokesman for the health department, said health officials along with superintendents and school nurses decided that having the clinics at school would be "too distressing and disruptive."

"We may decide to use a school building as a location for a clinic, but would schedule the clinic at a time when parents can be there," Ms. Snyder said.

"We plan to vaccinate children through evening and/or weekend clinics if they don't get the vaccine through their pediatrician," she said.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129.



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