Howard Schools Completing Swine Flu Clinics

Last 10 Buildings Are Giving Vaccines This Week

December 20, 2009|By John-John Williams IV | John-John Williams IV,john-john.williams@baltsun.com

Howard County school and health officials plan to complete an effort to offer swine flu vaccines to the entire public school population this week, according to officials.

A remaining 10 schools were holding in-school clinics for an expected 14,000 students last week and this week, bringing the total number of students to receive the vaccine this school year to 25,000, according to school system spokeswoman Patti Caplan. The school system plans to be finished distributing the vaccine by the winter break, which begins Thursday.

"It's been a lot of work, but this has made it easier for parents," Caplan said. "It assured that parents who wanted their children to be vaccinated should have the opportunity to do it in a way that was convenient."

The process of distributing the vaccine to students in the school system has taken more time than officials had initially anticipated.

At first, health officials said that the process of distributing vaccines would take a month. But a delay caused by vaccine manufacturers affected the process and extended the time it has taken to distribute the vaccines to two months.

The Health Department attempted to target "priority populations," which include schoolchildren, toddlers, pregnant women, the elderly, people with special needs, first-responder emergency workers and college-age students, according to Dr. Peter L. Beilenson, Howard County's health officer. Schools with the largest populations were offered the vaccines first in order to reach the greatest number of students, officials said.

School and health officials noticed an immediate effect at schools where the vaccines have been distributed. According to Beilenson, all of those schools saw absenteeism reduced.

"For the few minutes that it took for each child to be vaccinated, it's well worth it," Caplan said. "You'd rather not take the risk. I don't think that H1N1 has turned out to be as serious as what [officials] had thought it would be. But you still don't want to take that risk."

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