Swine flu vaccination underway in schools

Posted: Sunday, November 08, 2009

Juneau schoolkids have begun receiving swine flu vaccinations.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

At Riverbend Elementary on Friday, more than a third of the school's students lined up to receive a squirt of nasal vaccine in each nostril.

Riverbend fifth-grader Carlos Alonso said the vaccination "feels weird in your nose."

"It tickles," he said.

Due to unexpectedly limited supplies, vaccination clinics scheduled for elementary schools are being confirmed week to week, said school district spokeswoman Kristin Bartlett. Gastineau Elementary School received shots the week before.

While the vaccines are recommended by the state, participation isn't mandatory. Students must have signed permission slips to receive the vaccine.

Riverbend Principal Carmen Katasse said 90 kids turned in signed permission slips before the event. There were 106 vaccines available, but staff expected to run out because of last-minute permission slips. Kids with permission who didn't get a vaccine will get it with the next shipment.

Some kids, such as fifth-grader Clarita Velazquez, were waiting until next week and a shipment of injectable vaccines.

The nasal spray vaccine is a live, weakened virus that does not contain preservatives. The shot contains a dead virus. Bartlett said it looks like Juneau will receive more shots than nasal spray next week.

People with asthma, colds or some other health conditions should not receive nasal spray vaccinations.

Greg Wilkinson, spokesman for the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services, which receives the vaccine from the Center for Disease Control and distributes it statewide, said the state tries to match the type of vaccine with type of demand.

As of Friday, the department had received 82,770 doses and distributed 68,930, with more on the way. Juneau receives 4.7 percent of the state's shipments, proportionate to population, he said.

More information is available on the school district's Web site at www.juneauschools.org/students_parents/swine_flu_h1n1_virus.

• Contact reporter Mary Catharine Martin at 523-2276 or maryc.martin@juneauempire.com.

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