COLUMBIA — As weekly shipments of H1N1 vaccine increase, the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services distributed the first vaccines to elementary schools, starting with Benton and West Boulevard elementary schools Wednesday.
Students were required to return a consent form to receive the vaccination, and parents had the option to be present while their children were vaccinated. The vaccinations began Wednesday morning at Benton Elementary School and continued in the afternoon at West Boulevard Elementary School.
“The vaccine isn’t going to be around forever, and it’s (H1N1) going around,” said Renea Moody, the mother of West Boulevard Elementary student Michael Proctor, 6. “I just want to make sure I protect him.”
Lynn Barnett of the Health Department said nurses vaccinated approximately 100 in the morning and had consent to vaccinate another 125 students in the afternoon.
“It was based on availability of the vaccine and the size of the schools,” said Maura Breting, the school nurse at West Boulevard and Benton elementary schools. “We’re just starting with these two schools, but probably in the next week or so, more will be coming in for other schools.”
Columbia Public Schools will offer the H1N1 vaccination to all 17,000 students in the district based on vaccine availability and plans to work closely with the Health Department to schedule additional in-school shot clinics.
As more doses of the vaccine become available, more schools will be offered the option for vaccination including MU and colleges. Joan Pais, a registered nurse at the MU Student Health Center, said university-age students will be able to receive the vaccine when it becomes available, but there is still no word when that will be.
“Here at MU, when we do have the vaccine available, it's going to go out in a mass e-mail to the students, it's going to go out over MU alert, and then I think it is also going to be posted in The Maneater and various other venues,” Pais said. “We’re hoping to have off-site clinics to dispense H1N1 vaccines if and when we get it, it could be as late as the end of the month now.”
Last week, the Student Health Center flu clinics dispensed nearly 800 seasonal flu vaccines to students but decided to cancel this week’s clinics when its supply dropped to 150 doses.
“We knew some high-risk students hadn’t got their shot yet,” Pais said.
Pais said students who want a seasonal flu vaccine can make appointments at the Student Health Center. On Friday, the center will announce whether next week's flu clinics — scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday — will be canceled.
“The only reason we’d have the clinics next week is if some H1N1 vaccine become available for us, but it's unlikely,” Pais said.
Genalee Alexander, spokeswoman for the Health Department, said the total number of doses received in weekly shipments has increased over the past four weeks, but the amount and type of vaccines the department will receive each week is uncertain.