BoardBuzz is pleased to say that NSBA has been at the forefront as school leaders prepare for the H1N1 (swine) flu pandemic which, according to experts, may worsen in the fall. NSBA has been working closely with the CDC to make sure the most current information gets out to local school boards, and most recently, NSBA surveyed superintendents around the country to gather their opinions on having their schools serve as H1N1 vaccination locations.
An Associated Press article that came out today mentions NSBA’s survey and describes how hundreds of schools are currently attentive to the government’s call to set up flu-shot clinics this fall. According to the article, this could be the most widespread school vaccination effort since the days of polio. Their review of swine flu planning suggests approximately three million students are in districts where officials want to offer the vaccine once available for shipping in mid-October. The government’s premise for having these H1N1 flu clinics within schools is pretty simple: school-aged children have been highly affected by this virus and having them gathered in one place is easier than trying to get millions of them to go their doctors or local clinics to get vaccinated. Also, children are known to spread viruses easily because of their close contact with people and rudimentary hygiene practices.
The survey that NSBA conducted shows that three out of four school leaders would allow their schools to be used as sites for H1N1 virus vaccinations. Only four of the 485 respondents from school districts would not allow their school facilities to be used.
There are, as BoardBuzz knows, some legitimate fears that come with offering such a vaccine within schools. Some of the most common concerns cited by school officials in the survey included: liability issues; the safety or effectiveness of the vaccine itself; a belief that children should be vaccinated in health care providers’ offices; and lack of resources, such as staff and space.
But many school officials are expressing confidence in working with their state or local health departments, and Brenda Z. Greene, director of NSBA’s School Health Programs, believes that what’s driving superintendents’ willingness is a core belief that schools must do what’s in the best interest of the students. She adds, however, that schools must plan ahead, such as for logistics. For instance, at what time of the day would the vaccines be administered to kids? It seems like two doses of the H1N1 shot will have to be taken, about three weeks apart, and some schools may also be offering the seasonal flu shot at the same time. Would having a vaccination clinic take time away from classroom activities? Fifty-three percent of those surveyed by NSBA stated they would prefer a combination of during and after-school availability to administer the vaccines.
And once the decision is made to offer flu shots at school, there are still other issues to be worked out, like staffing – health professionals will need to administer shots and also check for any reactions to the vaccine. In addition, not only must a parent sign a permission form, but someone needs to make sure it’s filled out correctly and matches up.
Yes, there is a lot to think about and plan. And it’s important to remember that hygiene practices, not vaccines come first and foremost: it is essential to teach kids to wash hands frequently and appropriately and to follow the new “in the sleeve” coughing and sneezing etiquette promulgated by the CDC. There are also established mitigation and school closure guidelines that need to be followed whenever necessary. But BoardBuzz believes that with a concerted effort between schools, the local and federal governments, public health officials, the medical community, and with NSBA’s help, school located vaccinations for H1N1 will be readily managed and help benefit the health of students, the nation, and believe or not, the world (P.S.: This is a global pandemic and none of use wants to see another 1918 pandemic).