First year of school flu shot program termed "a huge success"

December 26, 2013
REGION — At this week's Carroll County Commissioner's meeting, Jim Richardson of Carroll County Coalition for Public Health presented the results of the school-based flu shot clinic initiative.

With a $5,000 grant from the New Hampshire Immunization Bureau, a program was launched to immunize schoolchildren around the county against the flu virus. According to a release from the Coalition, several agencies agreed to partner and provide vaccinator support. They included Huggins Hospital EMS, Central NH VNA and Hospice, Tamworth Community Nurses, Conway Fire and Rescue, Visiting Nurse Homecare and Hospice of Carroll County, and Carroll County Medical Reserve Corps.

The goal, said Richardson, was to "promote herd immunity" by vaccinating schoolchildren and reducing school absenteeism due to illness. Some school nurses did not support the program, he told commissioners because they did not believe in the program or felt it was the responsibility of the parents to have their children immunized. Some schools, including those in Moultonborough and Kennett High School in North Conway, already have school nurses who provide the vaccinations to their respective students.

Vaccination clinics through Carroll County Coalition for Public Health began Sept. 30 in Wolfeboro schools and concluded with the K.A. Brett Elementary in Tamworth in November. In total, 640 children received the vaccination out of a school population of 3,769, about 17 percent of students in the target schools. Of the 24 public schools in Carroll County, 14 participated in this year's program. They are Crescent Lake, Carpenter Elementary, Kingswood Regional Middle and High School, as well as the elementary schools in Effingham, Madison, Tamworth, Ossipee, Tuftonboro, Wakefield, Conway, and Bartlett. Release forms were sent home to parents who had the opportunity to give permission for their child to be vaccinated as well as be present during the administration of the shot if they chose to be.

Richardson said the first year of the program, that will likely become an annual offering, was a "huge success" due to the support of all partners. The program has been around for five years in other parts of the State but this is the first year it has been offered in Carroll County. Richardson also reported that the statewide average stands at 39 percent of children who are labeled as having either no health insurance or who are "underinsured". For Carroll County, 45 percent of children fall into this category. He explained that "underinsured" is described as children who may be insured though that insurance is provided by a federally subsidized program such as NH Healthy Kids rather than having access to private health insurance.

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