Dec. 3, 2009
By Tim Simard
A second round of vaccination clinics for the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, have been postponed in the Williston School District. The final series of inoculations were to begin Tuesday, Dec. 1, but school officials informed parents last week that the dates have been postponed.
The clinic at Champlain Valley Union High School, scheduled for later this month, has also been delayed indefinitely.
“We’re still waiting to hear when the next vaccinations will be,” said Sue Leister, Williston Central School’s nurse.
Leister said school officials would alert parents as soon as the Vermont Department of Health rescheduled the clinics.
The second clinics are for students ages 10 and under. For the inoculations to be most effective for that age group, health officials urge that children receive two shots.
According to Leister, students should receive the second shot four weeks after the initial immunization. Allen Brook School students received their first vaccination on Nov. 3 and Williston Central students on Nov. 18. Leister said students at Allen Brook would need the second shot very soon based on health guidelines, although she still believes both vaccinations will be effective for a short time after the four-week window.
“I know we are on a priority list with the state,” Leister said.
Though Leister said parents should not be overly concerned about the gap between their children’s first and second vaccinations, she said they can contact a family physician to see if vaccines are available.
Delays in school vaccination clinics have been a problem in Vermont since early this fall. In Williston, inoculations were originally scheduled for late October and early November, but were postponed for a few weeks because of supply shortages.
Some students received vaccinations through their family doctor, Leister said, but even doctors’ offices are experiencing shortages.
“If the doctors’ offices can’t get it, we can’t get it,” Leister said.
According to Deb Wilcox, the chief of public health nursing with the Vermont Department of Health, supplies for the vaccine can’t keep up with demand. Manufacturing of the seasonal flu virus shots has even taken a backseat to H1N1 flu shot production, but shortages continue, she said.
Initially, Wilcox said the health department wanted to complete all school inoculations before the holiday break later this month.
“Because of the slowdown within the state of getting the vaccine, we’re not going to be able to do that,” Wilcox said.
Delays at CVU
Champlain Valley Union High School’s one vaccination clinic, which was scheduled for Dec. 17, was postponed. CVU nurse Caroline Slater informed the Observer of the delay on Tuesday. Laurie Fox, the school’s health administrative assistant, said the clinic is likely to take place after the New Year.
Despite the postponement, Slater said the student body has been relatively healthy during this flu season, with no unusual spikes in student or staff absences.
“Typically we do see a rise this time of year, but that hasn’t happened yet,” Slater said.
In Williston, Leister said there were some days last month where more than 150 students were absent across the district. She said the vast majority of those absences were due to flu-like symptoms. Some of those students tested positive for H1N1, although she did not have an exact number. So far this week, absences have been back to normal levels, she said.
Leister also said the first round of vaccinations went well. She estimated 80 percent of the student body received the swine flu shot, and that’s not counting students who received the shot at their family doctor’s office.
While Leister hopes the worst is over, Wilcox cautioned that the state is still experiencing widespread swine flu cases.
“The virus is still very active in Vermont,” Wilcox said.