Free Flu Vaccine Still Available to Kids

October 27, 2010, 7:19 PM HST
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The Stop Flu at School program is currently underway across Hawaii, with many school clinics offering free flu shots to children this year. This is the fourth year for the program, which includes about 330 public and private schools throughout the state. Kids can get vaccinations right at school at no charge, without parents having to take off valuable work time to take children to the doctor’s office.

What about H1N1?

Although the CDC has recently announced that the H1N1 flu virus has mostly run its course, there have still been cases circulating Hawaii, according to state Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park. In a report on the Star Advisor website, Dr. Park said that the H1N1 strain is now acting more like a standard flu bug, with the same dangers to those with compromised immune systems or chronic health conditions. Health officials are advising parents to get their children immunized to protect against this flu strain, as well as the seasonal bug that is sure to begin making an appearance in the not-so-distant future.

Last year, individuals had to receive two vaccinations to protect them against both the seasonal flu and the H1N1 strain. This year, the vaccinations are combined into a single injection, making it quicker and less painful for kids and adults alike to properly protect themselves against this seasonal illness. The vaccination is essential to prevent the spread of the illness, and to keep children from missing school days and getting behind in their studies.

“Ultimately if they (students) get sick and they have to stay home, they miss out on valuable instruction time, which we know in Hawaii has been a very hotly contested and talked-about issue,” Ronn Nozoe, acting deputy superintendent of the Department of Education told the Star Advertiser. “We really want to make sure we maximize those numbers of days in school.”

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The immunization is particularly essential for those who are vulnerable to the dangers of the flu, including pregnant women and those with diabetes, asthma and other chronic conditions.

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The Benefit of School Clinics

By offering the vaccinations through school clinics, parents have much easier access to immunizations for their children. Children must attend the clinic when it is scheduled at their school, since no makeup immunizations will be provided. To find clinic dates and the schools participating in the Stop Flu at School program, check out the website at stopfluatschool.com.

The flu shot is required annually, since the specific strain of flu changes from year to year. Children under the age of eight will need a second dose of the vaccine if this is their first time receiving a flu shot. The second shot will need to be scheduled through the family’s regular health care provider. Nasal mists will also be available for those who do not wish to have the shot.

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