H1N1 school vaccinations begin Monday
Martha's Vineyard public health and school officials plan to begin a program on Monday to vaccinate all Island public school children.
Vaccinations will be on a school-by-school basis and will be based on the arrival of sufficient quantities of H1N1 flu vaccine.
The first school clinics are scheduled for enrolled students at the Chilmark School, the West Tisbury School, and the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School.
The decision to start with those schools is based on the quantities of available vaccine, according to a press release provided by the Martha's Vineyard Public Health Coalition, which is comprised of health agents from the six Island towns, and representatives of the Martha's Vineyard Hospital, Vineyard Nursing Association (VNA), Dukes County Emergency Management, and the Wampanoag Health Service.
According to a school census, as of October 1 there were 43 students enrolled in the Chilmark School, 267 students in the West Tisbury School and 180 students in the Charter School located in West Tisbury.
School officials have sent notices about the clinic, vaccination consent forms, and information sheets home to all parents. The VNA will administer the clinics.
"Parents have the option to participate or not," superintendent of schools James Weiss said. "We encourage people to do it, but it is a personal choice."
Ron MacLaren, Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) health director and point man for the coalition, told The Times Tuesday that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, which distributes the H1N1 flu vaccine, notified the VNA by email Friday of the availability and shipment of vaccine.
The coalition met Monday to plan the school clinics. Mr. MacLaren said the VNA has 100 doses and expects to receive another 100. He said the Tribal clinic, which will hold a clinic for tribal members in at-risk groups today, would also be able to contribute to the number of doses available for the Monday school clinics.
Although the number of students exceeds the available doses, Mr. MacLaren said the coalition does not expect 100 percent of the students to get vaccinated.
Vaccination clinics for students in the Oak Bluffs School, Tisbury School, Edgartown School, and the Regional High School will be scheduled with the superintendent as soon as additional vaccine arrives, a press release said.
"My goal is to get the clinics done as soon as we can," Mr. Weiss said. "But it is all dependent on the availability of the vaccine."
Young adults are in one of the high-risk groups. Last week and this week approximately 100 high school students, many with flu like symptoms, were absent according to school officials.
Mr. MacLaren told The Times on Tuesday that he expects more shipments of H1N1 vaccine to arrive soon.
In a letter dated November 3, the Department of Public Health said that by the end of this week, "more than 660,000 doses of H1N1 vaccine will have been distributed to providers in Massachusetts - just the tip of the iceberg of the total 3.5 million doses we expect to receive this flu season." DPH said those 660,000 doses are enough to vaccinate just 10 percent of the state's population.
The DPH letter continued: "These initial limited supplies have been prioritized for distribution to the health care providers who serve the populations at the highest risk of H1N1 flu - pregnant women, children, and caregivers of infants less than 6 months old. It has also been prioritized for health care workers with direct patient contact in light of their vital role in keeping the health care system working. DPH believes this targeted distribution approach, using health care providers who serve these high risk groups every day, is the most effective way to ensure the vaccine gets to those who need it most as quickly as possible.
"As vaccine supplies arrive in larger quantities, more and more providers will receive vaccine for their patients. Vaccine will then be targeted to young adults up to 24 years old and people 25-64 with chronic health problems. Eventually, flu clinics for the general public will begin. However, they won't be scheduled until there are large enough quantities of vaccine available to support them. Based on current projections from the Centers for Disease Control, these flu clinics will not likely be feasible until December."