Swine flu shots arrive at health department, consent forms for students being sent out

Published 3:21 am Sunday, November 1, 2009

Swine flu shots will be available on a limited basis at the county health departments on Monday, said State Epidemiologist Dr. Mary Currier, of the Mississippi Department of Health.

Check before you rush there, because they will first be doled out by priority, state health officials said.

Meantime, Dr. James M. Riser of Riser Medical Associates in Picayune said on Saturday that consent forms will go out this week to parents requesting permission to vaccinate their children at school.

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The consent forms will be sent home with students.

Riser said parents should give the consent forms top priority because health officials compiling their orders will fill them based on the number of consent forms being returned by parents.

Riser said that the 2009 H1N1 swine flu vaccine is safe. It is produced by the same companies that manufacture the regular, seasonal flu vaccine and is manufactured by the same process, he said.

After Riser and health officials receive the consent forms, they will place their order for the vaccine and will then begin setting up locations where students will be vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is received.

Picayune assistant school superintendent Brent Harrell last week said school officials are cooperating with Riser and other health officials and said that Nicholson and South Side elementary schools might be the sites for the vaccinations.

However, he said a final decision on the locations had not been made.

The consent forms will be sent out this week by all school districts in the county. That includes Picayune, Poplarville and the Pearl River County school districts.

Riser said it should take about two weeks to get the consent forms signed and then the vaccine will be ordered. As soon as it arrives, vaccinations will begin. He said right now officials are looking at the latter part of November before vaccinations can begin, but he cautioned that things can change.

It could be earlier than expected, and officials are hoping it won’t be later. There is no charge to parents for the vaccinations.

Students will be vaccinated with the injectable form of the vaccine.

Currier said the swine flu doses at the local county health clinics will be given on a priority bases — with pregnant women, children six months through four years old, and parents, siblings, caregivers and anyone else living in the house with an infant under six months of age, given first priority.

“These groups are at the highest risk for complications from influenza,” Currier said.

The vaccine is free at all county health departments, she added.

The Pearl River County Health Department is located about one mile north of the Pearl River Central school complex at Carriere on the west side of U.S. Highway 11. The phone number is 601-798-6212.

Currier said that so far 223,800 doses have been allocated to Mississippi, 146,000 injectable and 77,800 nasal mist vaccine.

In a press release on Friday Dr. Currier said, “Mississippians have proven to be very gracious in times of limited vaccine availability. We ask everyone to remain patient as those with the highest risk of complications receive their vaccinations first.”

She added, “We’re receiving additional doses each week, and we expect the vaccine will be available for everyone once the priority groups have been vaccinated.”

She said that next week the vaccinations of school children should begin in some sections of the state and that an estimated 500,000 school-aged children will be vaccinated eventually.

“That will take several weeks to complete,” she added.

“Just like the rest of the country, Mississippi is receiving limited shipments of the vaccine based on the population of our state. 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,” she said.

Currier said those not in one of the high priority groups should go ahead and get a regular, seasonal flu shot, continue using proper health hygiene procedures and if sick, stay home.

She said residents can get additional information at www.healthyms.com or by calling 1-877-222-9flu.