The San Jose Unified School District this fall will offer free swine flu vaccinations to its 32,000 students.
The school district is working in collaboration with Stanford Medical School and Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, Santa Clara County's public health officer, to offer the vaccine in nasal spray and injections at 40 school sites, according to Melinda Landau, manager of the school district's health and family support program.
Landau said the school district is in the process of ordering the vaccines and will kick off a pilot program at two schools before branching out. The vaccinations are free, but require permission from parents.
"We want to emphasize that this is a voluntary program," Landau said. "We won't do anything without a parent-signed permission slip."
Landau said school nurses will work in teams at two sites a day to give the vaccinations. The school district is aided by the best school-to-nurse ratio in all of Santa Clara County, Landau said.
Landau said the program was started to help disadvantaged students who may not have access to primary care physicians.
"Some of our families, they're at work and it's hard to get their child to the doctor or clinic," Landau said. "We're trying to keep our kids in school, remove barriers in education."
The school district still needs to iron out storage issues and the logistics of making the program work at each site. Landau said the county's public health officer has been helpful in providing training to nurses and coordinating vaccines.
Fenstersheib said, as supervising physician, he will provide the school district his medical license so that they can order vaccines and also ensure that the school district operates under proper protocols.
"We couldn't do it without them," Landau said.
Fenstersheib said the county has been allocated a total of 14,100 doses of the nasal spray to be immediately distributed to 58 providers, including the health department. The initial batch will be available primarily for children who are between the ages of 2 and 10 and who are healthy.
The rest of the 400 providers who have signed up to receive the vaccines will receive a shipment of 211,000 doses of both the nasal spray and shot in mid-October.
Napa County public information officer Elizabeth Emmett said the county received an initial 900 doses of the vaccine this morning. Vaccines will be offered at schools beginning next week with priority given to children between the ages of 2 and 10.
In Contra Costa County, Health Services spokeswoman Kate Fowlie said the county's initial shipment of 7,000 doses will be distributed at 49 elementary schools upon arrival.
California Department of Public Health spokesman Ken August said an initial shipment of 400,000 doses of the nasal spray is being distributed to health care providers across the state this week and that an initial shipment of 200,000 doses of the shot will be distributed in mid-October.
As many as 4.5 million doses of the nasal spray and 18 million doses of the shot could be distributed across the state.
"We expect to see more illnesses from H1N1 flu, more serious illnesses and unfortunately more death," August said. "It's important that all Californians take steps to protect themselves from the H1N1 flu."
August said about 10,500 providers in California have registered for the vaccines. He encouraged more to register at www.calpanflu.org.
"Based on information we have on demand, we expect vaccines to be available for anyone who wants it," August said. "We are encouraging providers to make an effort to vaccinate priority groups first but ultimately anyone who wants to get vaccinated will get it."
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