H1N1 doses given
Gail Maholick/TIMES NEWS Jeremy Behler, a student at Lehighton Area Middle School and son of Gerard and Melissa Getz of Weissport receives an H1N1 inoculation from Lori German, who is a nurse at Mahoning Elementary School. Students at Lehighton Area Middle School received inoculations on Friday. Lehighton was the first school district in Carbon County to begin giving vaccinations to students whose parents approved.
A well-organized plan resulted in an orderly distribution of student H1N1 vaccinations at Lehighton schools over the past two days.
Lehighton was the first school district in Carbon County to receive an allotment of H1N1 vaccine from the Department of Health.
Students at the four elementary schools in Lehighton were given nasal vaccines on Thursday and by Friday, the district began the distribution to middle school students via injections.
Students in grade five were also given nasal vaccines. Nasal vaccines were given to younger students to minimize student response to pain of an injection.
Most of the sixth, seventh and eighth students interviewed at the middle school said the injection did not hurt, but there were a few students who needed a friend's arm to hang on to, or a comforting word from one of the health care nurses giving the injections, before agreeing to pull up their sleeves to accept the prick of the needle.
The district's nurses worked hard in organizing the vaccination plan so they could begin as quickly and run as smoothly as possible. Kathy Lloyd, district nurse, said that a variety of school nurse and nurse volunteers were giving the injections.
Lehighton's plan called for the vaccination of all students who submitted a written parental approval. Those students without approvals were exempt from receiving the doses.
"You need a lot of people to keep this organized," said Lloyd.
The teachers were in charge of the classroom, but it was the bank of people seated behind computers verifying student identifications and the nurses giving the injections who kept the line of students moving.
Those high school students with parental approval forms will receive their vaccinations on Monday and Lehighton CTI students will receive their vaccinations next Tuesday.
Students under age 9 will receive a follow-up vaccine through the district in approximately three weeks, as prescribed by the Department of Health.
Avril Guardiani, high school nurse, said that now is the perfect time for Lehighton students to receive the vaccine.
"Regular absenteeism is usually between 4.9 to 5 percent, but recently the absenteeism rate was as high as 18 percent, due to illness," said Guardiani. "Most of the students being tested had Influenza A, a seasonal flu and not Swine Flu." She noted that most students who were sick were not tested to see if it was H1N1.
She said the school district has had three students with confirmed cases of H1N1.
"We're back at the approximately five-percent level of absenteeism," Guardiani said, "so that makes this a good time to vaccinate students. We're between waves."
"I believe we have not seen the end of it," she said. "I predict that we will have another wave."
Guardiani said that the hospitals are so overwhelmed with sickness that they have suspended testing for H1N1.
"If a flu test comes back before 3-to-8 days, then the test is not for Swine Flu," she said.
The school district collaborated with Blue Mountain Health System, local nurses, and the Carbon County Emergency Management Agency to organize the student inoculations.