MARCO ISLAND — Supplies remain limited, but Marco Island students and at-risk adults will soon be able to receive immunization against H1N1 Influenza, commonly called swine flu. Eventually, government health officials say they hope the vaccines will be available to all who want it and are preparing for four community flu clinics in the county beginning early November.
The Collier County School District and Collier County Health Department are holding school-based clinics beginning Tuesday.
“We have the ability to give 7200 vaccines daily in the schools ... Because there are approximately 45,000 to 50,000 students in Collier schools, this vaccination process will take through Dec. 2 to accomplish,” said Collier County Health Department Spokeswoman Deb Milsap.
Clinics will be held at each of the district’s elementary, middle, and high schools, including Tommie Barfield Elementary between 8:45 a.m. and 11:15 a.m., Oct. 30, and Marco Island Charter Middle School between 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., the same day.
A clinic is scheduled at Lely High School between 8 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., Nov. 4.
The complete school clinic schedule is posted on the district Web site at collierschools.com.
Most children will be able to receive the intranasal form of the vaccine, called FluMist, rather than an injection, announced Collier County School District spokesman Joe Landon in a prepared release Wednesday.
Parents must return a consent form to the school before the scheduled clinic date to ensure an adequate supply of vaccine is available.
The vaccines will be given at no charge at both the school clinics and upcoming community clinics.
Collier County received 1,900 doses of the FluMist H1N1 Swine Flu vaccine in mid-October and the earlier anticipated weekly shipments are behind schedule, Millsap reported Thursday.
The health department does not currently have enough vaccine to open a community vaccination clinic.
“There has been a delay in the shipments of vaccine and therefore, we need to push our proposed first week of community clinics to the first week in November,” Milsap said.
Because the vaccines are coming in phases, vaccination clinics will be available to those who are most at risk first, which include people six months old to 24-years old, pregnant women, health care providers, people who care for infants and people with illnesses that may make them particularly susceptible to catching the virus.
While specifics have not yet been released, the closest clinic for Marco Island area residents will be at the former Kmart on 951 and U.S. 41.
“We have not announced dates, times or locations for those clinics as we want to make sure we have the vaccine in hand before we announce that information,” Milsap said Thursday.
She said that there will be four general locations and in addition to the former East Naples Kmart, vaccination clinics will also be available in the coming weeks in Everglades City, Immokalee and North Collier Regional Park.
“We are eager to get vaccine out to individuals who are at highest risk of complications and ultimately to everyone in Collier, residents and visitors, who desires the vaccine to protect themselves, their families and the community from this very unpredictable flu,” Milsap said.
Pharmacies do not have the H1N1 vaccine at this point, but depending on vaccine supply, they may receive some later in the year.
At this stage in the vaccine distribution process, the physicians most likely to have vaccine will be pediatricians and OB/GYNs, she added.
Pregnant women are disproportionately affected by H1N1 and children are known as “super spreaders” because germs are spread and enter the body commonly by touching one’s eyes, nose or mouth, Milsap said.
“Children tend to touch their faces 80 times an hour while adults touch their faces an average 18 times per hour.”
Florida Department of Health offers a 24-hour flu information line at (877) 352-3581.