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Health Department gives flu vaccine in Columbia schools

Wednesday, October 20, 2010 | 1:03 p.m. CDT; updated 8:12 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 20, 2010

COLUMBIA — Few kids enjoy getting a shot, but the students at Mill Creek Elementary school didn't complain.

“I had anticipated a lot of tears,” Mill Creek PTA president Nicole Morris said. “There were some tears, but most of the kids were troupers.”

The Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services Department is providing free flu vaccine clinics to preschool and elementary students in all Columbia Public Schools, as well as out-county public and some private schools.

The vaccinations started on Oct. 13 and should finish by Nov. 11, Trina Teacutter, the nursing coordinator at the Health Department, said.

The vaccine is offered in two forms: the traditional flu shot and a nasal mist.

The money for the clinics and temporary nurses comes from a $14,000 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant, Teacutter said. She said the grant could be used for several projects, like tetanus vaccinations and flu vaccine clinics in non-traditional locations. The Health Department chose to provide the clinics to make it easier for children to receive the vaccine.

“I think for a lot of parents it’s a convenience,” Teacutter said.

She said that offering the clinics in schools frees the parents from having to take off work to give their children the flu vaccine.

Many local pharmacies, like Walgreens and Hy-Vee, do not vaccinate children of certain ages, making it difficult for some families to protect their children against the flu, Teacutter said.

This is the second year the Health Department has had the clinics.

“It went so well last year, it’s been really easy to go back and do it again,” Teacutter said.

Lori Osborne, the school nurse at Mill Creek and the health services coordinator for Columbia Public Schools, said 40 percent to 50 percent of students participated last year, with more elementary school students participating and fewer high-schoolers. This year, the Health Department expects around 40 percent of students to participate, Teacutter said. 

Teacutter said she hopes that as many students as possible choose to get the vaccine.

“The more kids we can get vaccinated, the healthier the entire school will be,” she said.

Morris, whose son, Lake, has asthma, said she had him vaccinated before the school offered the clinics. Offering the vaccine at school gives parents another option to help children fight disease, Morris said.

“I think any time that a parent can be proactive in protecting their children, they should,” Morris said. “Especially if it’s free to their kids, it’s hard to say no.”

Parents were given the option of signing their children up for the clinic through permission slips, Teacutter said. Parents should make sure to do research beforehand if they are worried about any side effects to the vaccine, Morris said.

“If there’s something they’re concerned about, ask questions,” Morris said.

Osborne said that students were not required to take the vaccine.


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