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Placer County bringing H1N1 vaccine to students

School-site clinics planned this month
By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal staff writer
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Usually it’s frowned upon when children stick things up their noses. That wasn’t the case Tuesday morning, when Auburn Elementary students patiently waited their turns in the school’s multipurpose room for H1N1 vaccination, administered for the most part in the form of a nasal spray. “They gave me a shot … in my nose,” said second-grader Micah Yokum. “It felt like water was running through my nose.” Placer County Health and Human Services and the Placer County Office of Education are working together to make the most out of the H1N1 vaccine doses the county has received so far. Planned throughout November are school-based clinics this month aimed at providing the vaccine, for free, to as many students as possible. “Placer County is trying to vaccinate school-age children first, because that’s where the H1N1 seems to have the most negative effect,” Ken Lake, Placer County Office of Education project manager, prevention services, said Tuesday. Mark Starr, Placer County director of community health and clinics, said the county’s health department has received some 20,000 doses of the vaccine, with the majority meant for students at this point. Gayle Garbolino-Mojica, Placer County superintendent of schools, said the goal is to inoculate at least half of Placer County’s 65,000-plus students. “We knew that we needed to create an opportunity to keep as many children healthy as possible,” she said. “It’s an option, a very convenient option.” Garbolino-Mojica said county health officials are working with district administrators to plan vaccination clinics that will best serve each district’s population. “They’re trying to figure out how they can quickly move children to the locations,” she said. It is up to the districts and schools to notify families about scheduled clinics, and vaccinations are administered only to students who return signed permission forms. Sam Schug, Auburn Elementary principal, said about 38 percent of the school’s population took advantage of Tuesday’s clinic. While pulling students out of class to send them to the multi-purpose room for the vaccination was slightly disruptive, it’s nothing in comparison to having students absent from school, Schug said. Attendance has been down slightly so far this year, Schug said, and whether or not that’s due to H1N1 is unknown. “We’re not tracking swine flu, nobody is, but we’re tracking flu-like symptoms,” he said. Schug said that flu and strep throat are going around right now. Conny Moore, who has two children attending Auburn Elementary, said she appreciates being able to have her kids vaccinated at school. “They miss a minimum amount of school. They do it free,” she said. Community clinics are in the planning stages to follow the school clinics, when more doses of the vaccine are available, said Mark Starr with county health. “We just don’t know exactly when the vaccine will roll in — eventually there will be enough vaccines for everyone, but we just don’t know when that is,” he said. The H1N1 vaccine comes in two forms, a nasal version containing a live attenuated virus and an injectable formulation contains an inactivated strain of the virus. “Both are equally effective, equally safe,” Starr said. That said, children seem to favor the nasal mist, Starr said. “A lot of kids like the nasal,” he said. “It’s quick, and there’s no injection.” Micah Yokum, the Auburn Elementary second-grader, said he didn’t mind the nasal spray. “I feel good, because I know I’m not going to get it,” he said. Reach Loryll Nicolaisen at lorylln@goldcountrymedia.com.