Swine flu prevention: Nearly 40 percent of Collier students received H1N1 vaccine

Nancy Crafton, left, talks with Angeline Balmat and her son Holland Colburn, 2, after he gets his H1N1 vaccine Thursday at North Collier Regional Park. The Collier County Health Department is held its first H1N1 vaccination clinic today for at-risk populations, with more clinics scheduled in East Naples on Friday and one in Immokalee on Saturday. Lexey Swall/Staff

Photo by LEXEY SWALL

Nancy Crafton, left, talks with Angeline Balmat and her son Holland Colburn, 2, after he gets his H1N1 vaccine Thursday at North Collier Regional Park. The Collier County Health Department is held its first H1N1 vaccination clinic today for at-risk populations, with more clinics scheduled in East Naples on Friday and one in Immokalee on Saturday. Lexey Swall/Staff

What are the signs and symptoms of swine flu?

— Since beginning vaccination clinics in Collier County schools about a month ago, more than 16,000 children have received the H1N1 vaccine, or about 38 percent of the total student population.

District and county health department officials are pleased with the number.

“Every child vaccinated is another child that is protected,” said Deb Millsap, spokeswoman with the Collier County Health Department. “We did not expect 100 percent of the students to be vaccinated. It is a new vaccine and parents tend to be cautious.”

Both the health department and the district expected about 40 percent of the students to be vaccinated, said Eileen Vargo, health coordinator for the district.

Vargo said the swine flu vaccination clinics have been positive.

“The vaccinations have decreased the number of students who are ill,” she said. “Our attendance has been steady. ... And for every student who is vaccinated is another student we don’t have to worry about coming to school with H1N1.”

In the first round of clinics completed on Wednesday, Dec. 2, about 49 percent of elementary school students received the vaccine, while 38 percent of middle school students and 22 percent of high school students received the vaccine.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that children younger than 10 receive a second dose of vaccine. The second round of vaccination clinics began Thursday in Collier elementary schools and will conclude next month.

Millsap said about 60 percent of the students who received vaccinations received them in a shot form. The other 40 percent received a nasal spray. Parents had the choice of which form of the vaccine their children would receive, except in certain cases in which students couldn’t have the nasal spray.

Students had to have signed permission slips from their parents to be able to receive the vaccines. Parents also were invited to be present when their child received the vaccine.

Vargo said the district is still urging parents to be vigilant, keeping their students at home if they are sick. She said symptoms of the swine flu can include a temperature of 100 degrees or more and a cough or sore throat.

Health officials have said the recommended course of treatment for anyone with flu-like symptoms is to stay home for seven days and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. People are advised to avoid close contact with anyone else who is sick.

As to what the future might hold for more vaccination clinics, Vargo said the district is continuously reviewing its options. “Let’s hope we don’t have to do this again. We hope there is not another pandemic,” she said. “But I think we have had good collaboration and that is not always an easy thing to accomplish.”

This is not the first time the district has held mass vaccination clinics, Vargo said. She said the district has held clinics for students when the state changed vaccination requirements, but that was years ago. Those were usually only for one grade and were on a smaller scale, she said.

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing this year.

In November, 77 students at the Community School of Naples were mistakenly given the seasonal flu vaccine when parents had signed consent forms for their children to receive the H1N1 vaccine, according to the health department.

The health department returned to the school and vaccinated the students again after their parents had been notified of the mix-up.

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