(November 13, 2009) Starting next week, public health nurses will offer free H1N1 vaccinations to middle school students and high school students on campus during the school day at certain school districts throughout the Health Department's four-county service area. Beginning the week of November 16, H1N1 vaccinations will be available for middle and high school students in the Boyne City, Mancelona, Alanson, and Gaylord school districts. Clinics in other school districts will be held the following weeks.Antrim County
H1N1 vaccination consent forms and H1N1 Vaccine Information Statements will be mailed to middle and high school students' homes in these districts. Parents and guardians must complete the consent forms and return them to school; no student will be vaccinated without a signed consent form.
H1N1 vaccination clinics are scheduled at both college campuses in the Health Department's service area: on Tuesday, December 1 at the University Center in Gaylord and Thursday, December 3 at North Central Michigan College in Petoskey.
The Health Department quickly organized community H1N1 flu vaccination clinics for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) & Prevention "vaccine priority groups" to protect the people most vulnerable to complications from the flu. From October 30 through November 13, over 7,000 doses of H1N1 vaccine were given in Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties, the Health Department’s service area.
Although H1N1 vaccine production is getting a slow start, the CDC does not expect vaccine shortage. Everyone who wants H1N1 vaccine should be able to get it over the next few weeks and months.
"We're pleased so many people came out to get a dose of vaccine," said Joshua Meyerson, MD, Medical Director for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. "But there were few school age kids at the clinics. Babies six months old through young adults age 24 are in the CDC's vaccine priority groups. Offering clinics for middle and high school students during their school day is one way to reach large numbers of adolescents in a way that is convenient for their parents."
H1N1 vaccination clinics will not be offered in elementary schools, Meyerson said. "Most younger children want mom or dad or someone else close to them when they get vaccinated," he said. For younger children and others in the vaccine priority groups who have not received H1N1 vaccine yet, appointments are available in Health Department offices in Mancelona, Charlevoix, Petoskey/Harbor Springs, and Gaylord while vaccine supplies last. Children under age nine need a second dose of H1N1 vaccine 28 days after the first dose to be fully protected; parents can schedule appointments for them at Health Department offices.
Many communities have experienced one wave of flu activity, causing many area schools to close to slow down the spread of the virus. H1N1 vaccination is recommended even for students who have already had the flu, unless they have laboratory confirmation that the specific flu strain was H1N1.
"Flu activity is highly unpredictable," said Joshua Meyerson, MD, Medical Director for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. "The CDC is carefully watching flu activity in the U.S. to see if it will continue to mirror the flu pandemic in the late 1950s, which had waves in the spring and fall—like we’ve had--followed by another major wave in January. If there is another wave of flu this winter, the more people who are vaccinated against H1N1, the better. As we’ve already seen, flu outbreaks can be very disruptive in families and in communities."The CDC's vaccine priority groups are:
The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. For additional information or to schedule an H1N1 vaccination appointment, call 800-432-4121; visit www.nwhealth.org for weekly H1N1 vaccination schedule and other resources.