County cancels elementary vaccinations

By Zack Potter, Online News Editor

With more and more students nationwide being diagnosed with flu-like illnesses, many elementary school students parents were pleased to hear that their children would have the opportunity to receive free seasonal flu vaccinations at elementary schools.  However, once MCPS was advised by the State of Maryland to discontinue the vaccinations, plans were quickly changed.

According to Mindy McMartin, nurse administrator at the Montgomery     County Department of Health and Human Services, the county was told by the Maryland State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to redirect their focus from the regular flu to the more potent H1N1 virus.

The vaccine, called FluMist, was originally scheduled to be administered for free to elementary school students between Sept. 23 and Oct. 22.  The county stopped giving the vaccine Oct. 1 to prepare for the administration of the H1N1 vaccine.  However, it will be slightly more difficult for students and parents to get the H1N1 shots.

“We are offering H1N1 intranasal vaccine to preschool students in MCPS during the school day,” McMartin said.  “We are [also] holding clinics at three high schools on Wednesdays from 4 to 8 p.m., beginning Oct. 28 and running through Nov. 11 for students.  As more vaccines become available we will hold additional clinics.”

However, elementary school parents who were looking forward to having their children receive the vaccines in school were left disappointed.

“Now I will have to go in the evening or take the kids out of school to go to the [clinics] during the day,” said Diane Tabatabai, mother of Potomac ES fifth grader Laila Tabatabai.  “I understand that H1N1 is a priority now, but seasonal flu hits hardest in January and February.  Not giving the seasonal flu shot at school will probably mean we will have a second wave when seasonal flu hits.”

Some school administrators also feel let down that the elementary schools will now be unable to give the students the seasonal flu vaccine, which the county received from drug company MedImmune for free through federal grants.

“I think it would have been great [for students to receive the flu shots,]” Potomac ES principal Linda Goldberg said.  “It would be very convenient for families.”