Schools begin to inoculate students to prevent swine flu


POSTED: Friday, November 13, 2009

Moanalua Middle School was scheduled today to became the first Hawaii school to inoculate children, faculty and staff for H1N1 influenza, or swine flu.

More than 320 schools statewide are participating in the H1N1 clinics, which follow the state Department of Health's Stop Flu at School seasonal flu school clinics.

Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist and chief of the Disease Control Division, said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had allocated 181,400 doses of H1N1 vaccine to Hawaii as of yesterday, and they are gradually arriving here.

She said 80,000 doses have been set aside for the school clinics so they will not have to be closed, as some states did, because of lack of vaccine. She said a couple of clusters of flu activities have occurred at schools, but “;they died down.”;

Bill Gallo, CDC senior management official for Hawaii and the U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands, praised the Department of Health for “;excellent work in preparing for an H1N1 vaccination campaign”; despite frustrating vaccine delays and other challenges.

He said the CDC and the department are working closely to make sure priority groups are immunized as soon as possible. “;The vaccine continues to come out in quite large quantities, but it also comes out slower than we expected and the manufacturers anticipated.”;

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A video on flu.hawaii.gov, the department's Web site, answers questions people might have about the vaccine.

Hawaii has had 11 deaths associated with swine flu since May 5, including one child. All but one adult and the child had underlying medical problems.

The CDC announced yesterday that 4,000 or more Americans have died with swine flu—about four times the estimate they were using.

Gallo pointed out an estimated 36,000 people die annually from seasonal flu, which is much greater than deaths actually confirmed in the lab.

“;Every year people are dying of seasonal flu, and hundreds of thousands are hospitalized. Yet we take it as no big deal.”; Park said. Seasonal flu must be taken more seriously than it has in the past, she said, noting several cases recently occurred of seniors hospitalized and almost dying.

Priority groups for H1N1 vaccinations are those from 6 months to 24 years old, people who care for children under 6 months old, pregnant women, health care and emergency personnel and those 25 to 64 with health conditions.