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Swine flu

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H1N1 influenza vaccine being offered in local schools

By Tom Wilmoth

Central Virginia Health District (CVHD) is preparing to offer the novel H1N1 influenza vaccination to school students across the district, including in Bedford County Public Schools.

    Students in Bedford County and Campbell County schools will be vaccinated starting Monday Oct. 26 through Thursday Oct. 29.

    The district also includes the counties and cities of Appomattox, Amherst and Lynchburg. 

    Since Oct. 8, the district has worked to distribute novel H1N1 influenza vaccination consent packets to all of the public schools in Central Virginia.  Included in these packets are a cover letter to the parent, a consent form and two vaccine information statements.

    “Parents will need to opt in for  their  children   to  receive the vaccinations,” stated Ryan Edwards, public relations coordinator “I think there is quite a bit of uneasiness concerning H1N1. I think a lot of parents will want their children vaccinated.”

    So far, Bedford County has not been hit hard by H1N1, also known as swine flu. “We’re not seeing wide spread cases by any stretch of the imagination,” Edwards said.

    What the school system is seeing is rumors. Edwards said a recent rumor was that the school system was just a few students away from shutting down the schools for three weeks.

    “We’re seeing many more rumors ... than actual cases,” he said. “Those kinds of things are putting the fear in people. It’s just not the case.”

    Edwards said the county’s attendance numbers are doing well. He said the wide spread national media coverage is fueling the spread of rumors.

    "we’re actually doing really well right now with our numbers," Edwards said.

    “You’ve got the national media showing story after story of how other places in the nation are doing,” he said, adding those stories will only look at the worst cases, not those school systems that aren’t being hit hard.

    “That really sets the tone,” he added of people’s fears. "Word of mouth can really manifest itself into a situation that creates panic.”

    But so far, so good. “We have had cases of course,” Edwards said. “We’re hoping that with just being a week away from the vaccinations we’re not going to see any severe situations this year.”

    Some parents have already taken advantage of the health department’s offer of the seasonal influenza vaccine, Flu Mist.  This vaccine only protects against the seasonal influenza and not the novel H1N1 influenza virus that is currently in circulation across Central Virginia communities.  CVHD plans to resume seasonal Flu Mist vaccinations after the novel H1N1 influenza vaccination campaign is completed.

    The federally-supplied novel H1N1 influenza vaccine is being shipped in two formulations; inactivated (like a regular flu shot) and live attenuated or weakened intranasal vaccine (LAIV), like the seasonal Flu Mist.  The inactivated vaccines are approved for persons six months and older including those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, and those with certain chronic medical conditions or a weakened immune system.  The LAIV vaccine is approved for persons 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant and do not have certain health conditions.  During school-based novel H1N1 influenza vaccination clinics, CVHD Public Health Nurses will use the answers parents provide to the questions on the consent form to determine which type of vaccine a child can receive.  Children who have received the Flu Mist should not receive another live-virus vaccine for four weeks.  The gap between vaccines is needed to maximize immune response and to avoid immune interference between vaccines.

    “Everything we’re seeing so far indicates that both formulations – the attenuated live and inactivated novel H1N1 influenza vaccines – are as safe as the corresponding seasonal flu vaccines,” stated Dr. Kerry Gateley, Health Director for the Central Virginia Health District, “and the seasonal vaccines are safe.  Millions of Americans have received seasonal flu vaccine, so we have plenty of experience with it.  The novel H1N1 influenza vaccine is made by the same manufacturers using the same processes used to make seasonal flu vaccine.”

    Parents and school leaders should be aware that a production delay with the novel H1N1 influenza vaccination may impact school and other vaccination schedules. Should you have further questions regarding the novel H1N1 influenza vaccinations you may refer to www.flu.gov, www.cdc.gov, www.vdh.virginia.gov, call 1-877-ASK-VDH3 or call Central Virginia Health District locally at 434-947-2873.