Schools to get flu vaccine
Children between 5 and 13 years old will be treated for free
Starting in October, Hawaii schoolchildren ages 5 to 13 will be able to get free flu vaccines under a new program.
"School-age children are more likely to get influenza (flu) than almost any other group and when they do, they spread it around to their parents, grandparents, siblings and friends," Health Director Chiyome Fukino said yesterday in a news conference at the state Capitol.
The program is estimated to cost $2.5 million, according to Fukino. About 200,000 schoolchildren could be eligible.
The program will be paid for by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state with additional support from the Hawaii Medical Service Association. The program is a partnership between the state departments of Education and Health and Hawaii's Catholic and independent schools.
Schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto said that a pilot project was conducted last year offering free vaccinations to students at Mililani High School.
"Providing free and easy access to flu vaccines for our students will mean fewer sick days and more quality time," Hamamoto said.
Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona said that "countless school and work absences, hospitalizations and even deaths could be prevented with a quick shot in the arm or nasal spray vaccine."
Students will be offered flu shots and a nasal flu spray.
The program will be voluntary and students will have to return a permission slip from their parents or guardians.
Permission slips will be sent home in August.
Fukino said flu shots are considered "extremely safe" and added that the CDC recommends giving yearly flu shots to children with long-term health problems including asthma, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease and blood disorders.