Local students and high-risk residents soon will have opportunities to get vaccinated against the H1N1 swine flu.
Mississippi State Department of Health officials Friday announced a limited number of doses of the 2009 H1N1 vaccine will be available at all county health departments Monday.
And Monday, MSDH officials also will begin mass vaccinations for all students at various schools throughout the state.
The Columbus Municipal School District, in connection with the MSDH and Mississippi University for Women”s School of Nursing, will offer vaccination shots free to students at Columbus High, Lee Middle, Hunt Intermediate and Franklin Medical Sciences and Wellness Magnet schools, Wednesday.
The remaining city schools will receive the vaccine in coming weeks, depending on the availability of medical personnel.
“Mississippi Department of Education wanted the school system to help,” said CMSD Superintendent Dr. Del Phillips. “We”re participating by providing a place and organizing it. The work will be done by outside medical personnel.”
Students will receive a permission slip, which must be completed fully and returned, before the vaccine is distributed.
Participation in the vaccination is voluntary; Phillips encouraged parents to accompany their children receiving the vaccine.
“We want to give parents the opportunity to be there when it happens,” he said.
Students aged 9 or younger will require a follow-up booster shot, within a month of the initial vaccination; the booster shots also will be administered at schools by medical professionals.
Lowndes County students also will receive the vaccine, although a formal schedule of vaccinations is not yet available.
“The Lowndes County School District will participate on strictly a voluntary basis and ask parents to consult with their personal physician if they have questions about their child participating,” said LCSD Superintendent Mike Halford.
Oktibehha County School District Superintendent James Covington said his district Monday will present a proposal to vaccinate students to the OCSD school board.
And an MSDH representative Tuesday will meet with the Starkville School District school board to discuss administering the H1N1 vaccine at schools.
Additionally, the West Point School District school board is expected next week to discuss vaccinating students.
County health department vaccinations
MSDH officials said 223, 800 doses of the H1N1 vaccine have been administered to Mississippians, including 146,000 doses of injectable vaccine and 77,800 doses of nasal mist vaccine.
The first injectable vaccine doses at county clinics will be available for pregnant women, children aged 6 months through 4 years, and parents, siblings, caregivers and anyone occupying a house with an infant younger than 6 months old.
The vaccine is free for these high-priority groups at county health departments.
“Mississippians have proven to be very gracious in times of limited vaccine availability,” said MSDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Mary Currier. “We ask everyone to remain patient as those with the highest risk of complications receive their vaccinations first. We”re receiving additional doses each week, and we expect the vaccine will be available for everyone, once the priority groups have been vaccinated.
“Just like the rest of the country, Mississippi is receiving limited shipments of the vaccine based on the population of our state,” added Currier. “Decisions are being made after each shipment arrives about how to reach those who are at the highest risk for complications and need the vaccine first.”
Currier recommended residents not in a high-priority group get a seasonal flu shot and continue using basic prevention methods, like hand-washing, avoiding close contact with others who are sick and staying home, if ill.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.
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