Schools await flu vaccine

Published 10:37 pm Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Production problems at the national level have resulted in a slow trickle of H1N1 flu virus vaccines available locally, officials say.

Booker T. Washington Elementary School is the only school in Suffolk whose students have been vaccinated against the so-called swine flu.

About 300 students at Booker T. Washington Elementary School whose parents turned in permission forms were given the vaccine Oct. 27. Other clinics are tentatively scheduled for coming days and weeks, including one at Southwestern Elementary School today.

“That’s the only one we have been able to accomplish,” John Cooke, emergency planner for the Western Tidewater Health District, said of the clinic at Booker T. Washington. The health district, which covers Suffolk, Franklin, Isle of Wight and Southampton, has been rotating shipments of vaccine among the four localities, director Lisa McCoy said. Students in the Franklin school system, because there are so few of them, were able to be vaccinated all in one day, McCoy said, which means the other localities will come up in the rotation more often now.

“Franklin is a small jurisdiction, so we were able to knock them out in a day,” Cooke said. “They’re essentially done, so we can focus on the other, larger jurisdictions. We try to equally spread that throughout the jurisdictions. We just keep running out of vaccine.”

McCoy noted that some vaccines are being kept at the health department facility, located at 135 Hall Ave. in Suffolk, for other priority groups.

“In addition to doing the school vaccination, we want to keep some vaccines back at the health department for pregnant women, parents of children less than six months old, and younger people with chronic diseases,” McCoy said.

The supply of vaccine has been slow in coming because of production problems on the national level. McCoy said another shipment is on its way to western Tidewater, but she did not know when it would arrive.

“We know that some is on the way,” McCoy said. “Sometimes it gets here very quickly. Sometimes it takes a long time.”

Cooke stressed that the school clinics are not open to the general public, but rather are for the students and staff at that school only.

“We seem to be having a few more general public folks showing up at school,” Cooke said. “School-based clinics are intended for the schoolchildren and those that work very closely with them.”

Schools spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw said in an e-mail this week that a clinic eventually will be held in every school, and no more permission forms are being accepted. The forms were sent home with students last month.