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By NICK MORDOWANEC
Capital News Service
LANSING – As the H1N1 virus continues to infect many people around the state, six counties offered vaccinations in school-based settings for those who needed them most.
The Central Michigan District Health Department (CMDHD) held two school-based clinics in Gladwin County, one at Gladwin High School and the other at Beaverton High School. Schools in Clare, Isabella, Arenac, Roscommon and Osceola counties have also held clinics and continue to do so.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified priority groups as pregnant women, children and young adults between 6 months and 18 years old, and parents and caregivers of children under 6.
Participation was on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Children in child care centers and those who are home-schooled were also invited to participate. Medical first responders and health care workers were offered the H1N1 vaccination through collaborative efforts among providers, pharmacies and the district health department.
“The goal is to educate everyone about the H1N1 virus and be able to offer vaccine to priority groups based on a vaccination plan,” said Melissa DeRoche, public information officer for the district. “Local health departments across Michigan were asked to immunize residents related to these groups.”
Schools like Beaverton High sent out forms ahead of time to inform parents of the clinics. The health department contacted the school, and the nurse made advance preparations
“The health department gave our school packets with questions that parents could answer,” said Superintendent Joan Cashin. “We anticipated a speedy process so many people could get vaccinated.”
One question the clinics often hear is how they are being paid.
According to Mary Kushion, health officer for the CMDHD, the state tells districts how much vaccine they can order in each jurisdiction, based on each county’s population. It depends on where the most immediate need is.
DeRoche said federal grant money went to the state Department of Community Health, which passed it on to the local departments. Medical providers could collect voluntary registration fees.
“If people chose to donate and had insurance coverage, we asked if they could provide money and then had the right to bill their insurance,’ DeRoche said.
“Most people have been very helpful in providing insurance for such immunizations,” she said.
In addition, Cashin said children were not required to get immunized. A consent form was sent to their parents, along with other information relating to the H1N1 virus.
“In the end, it was a parental choice of whether or not to get the shot,” said Cashin.
Kushion said 755 vaccinations took place at Harrison High School and 569 at Clare High School.
In Gladwin County, 568 vaccinations took place at Gladwin High School and 540 at Beaverton High School.
Rick Seebeck, superintendent of Gladwin Schools, said the clinics went as “smooth as clockwork.”
Seebeck said, “There were ample opportunities for kids to get vaccinated. It was the smoothest operation I’ve seen by the CMDHD.”
Greg McMillan, superintendent of Clare Schools, was also impressed by the CMDHD’s effort in setting up the clinics and making sure everything went as planned.
“To say it simply, ours went awesome,” McMillan said. “It started at 1 p.m. Kids were inoculated in an hour and a half, and by 5:30 p.m. it was a ghost town.
McMillan said, “It was well received. We’ve gotten many positive comments from the parents and community. Most parents wanted their kids to get shots, wanted them taken care of.”
According to DeRoche, the department is receiving more vaccine weekly.
As long as vaccines come in on a consistent basis, the department will hold clinics. More clinics are expected to take place during the remainder of the year, and community clinics will take place in Gladwin County if an adequate supply of vaccine remains.
Seebeck said, “If the health department wants to host another clinic in our schools, I’d be very happy to do it.”
© 2009, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.
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