10/15/2009

By Lisa Loomis

After much deliberation, the Waitsfield Elementary School will not join other area schools in offering an H1N1 (swine) flu vaccination to its students.

School Principal Kaiya Korb said that the restrictions imposed by the Vermont Department of Health on small schools (under 300 students) immunizing students would have been less than ideal for the Waitsfield School community.

"After much deliberation, including several phone calls to the Vermont Department of Health and local health care centers, we have decided that Waitsfield Elementary School will not participate in a school-based H1N1 vaccination clinic," she said.

RUN A CLINIC

She explained that schools were offered the option to either run an H1N1 clinic themselves, with some Vermont Department of Health support, or, if a school could achieve a critical mass of 300 students, hold a clinic run by the VDH with significant support from school staff. She said that further discussions with the health department yielded different answers, leading her to believe the health department's policy was evolving. She said she explored joining with other elementary schools and the Green Mountain Valley School to offer a combined clinic but said the health department responses were inconsistent on the regulations.

"GMVS is now holding an on-site clinic. Fayston and Moretown expressed interest in combining only if we traveled to their school," she explained.

PARENTS NOT ALLOWED

Among her primary reasons for not holding a school-based clinic either in Waitsfield or with another school was the fact that the health department would not allow parents to accompany their child while getting a shot.

"Department of Health officials have referred to the process of giving the shots as being 'an assembly line.' We are concerned that the experience would be overly frightening for children and, due to the exclusion of parents, not provide a service that many families wanted to avail themselves of," she said.
 
"Both the VDH-organized clinic and the school-organized clinic call for significant involvement of school staff. A mass vaccination could be a scary experience for a child and we have concerns about the associations a child might make with school staff or the school setting if participating in such an event at school," she added in a letter to the board.

COMMUNITY-BASED CLINIC


Korb said that after making the decision not to hold a clinic at Waitsfield, having the school nurse administer the vaccine, she learned that the Department of Health is providing a health nurse for a vaccination clinic at Fayston.

"But that information was not available to us in the time we had to make the decision. We were given options and had to make a decision in a short amount of time. I don't know if we'd take the Fayston option because it wasn't available to us. I don't think we'll revisit this and I'm not sure we'd still be able to get on the list," she continued.

"We're exploring the idea of having the school used for a community-based clinic, which would serve the greater community, would not require shutting down school or utilizing school staff and would allow parents to accompany their children. We will encourage town officials to request that such a clinic be offered in our town," she concluded.

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