The Louisiana Department of Health (DHH) and the Louisiana Department of Education today announced increased availability of the H1N1 vaccine for K-12 students at school-based vaccination events across the state. State Health Officer Jimmy Guidry also announced the availability of H1N1 vaccine at qualified pharmacies statewide and for additional target groups, and emphasized the results of a recent CDC study showing the H1N1 vaccine to be as safe as the seasonal flu vaccine.
The expanded target populations for the H1N1 vaccine include teachers, parents who are caregivers for persons with disabilities, providers of home and community-based health services who have close and consistent contact with people with disabilities, and those providing health care support services in day and residential programs for people with disabilities.
Pharmacies that are qualified to administer the 2009 H1N1 vaccine are now populated on LDH's H1N1 flu shot locator, which can be found at http://www.fighttheflula.com/.
School-based H1N1 vaccination events across the state are open to students from kindergarten through 12th grade, any immediate family members that fit a vaccination target group, and school teachers and administrators.
"We encourage everyone in the current target populations to get their H1N1 vaccination. Local pharmacies now give those residents another way to receive the vaccine," said State Health Officer Jimmy Guidry, M.D. "The H1N1 flu shot locator is a great resource for families across the state to find public avenues to receive the vaccine, and we certainly encourage them to do so."
Many school districts throughout the state have partnered with the Louisiana Department of Education and LDH to take part in the state's H1N1 flu vaccination campaign in coming weeks by offering injectable and nasal spray forms of H1N1 flu shots at no cost to students through school-based or community-based vaccination events. Participating schools and school districts are responsible for scheduling their school-based H1N1 vaccination events, with resources being provided by both LDOE and DHH. LDOE and LDH will release regional updates of schools systems that will participate in the vaccination campaign later this week.
"We are pleased that through a collaborative effort between the health care and education communities, families across Louisiana will receive the opportunity to have their child vaccinated if they so choose," State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek said. "The well being of students is clearly a factor in their academic success, and so we recognize the need to ensure all students remain healthy."
Parents and guardians of school students should be on the lookout now for informational packets distributed by individual schools to their students. The packets include vaccine information sheets from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and parental review/consent forms. Parents must return the consent forms for children under the age of 18 to receive their H1N1 flu vaccination.
Parents who wish to have their children vaccinated should ask their children if they have received a packet or consent form. If the form has been misplaced, parents may contact their child's school to receive a new packet. The consent form may also be downloaded at http://www.fighttheflula.com/ under the "For Schools" tab, however, the packets provided by schools to students have more information for parental review.
H1N1 Vaccine Safety Study
The CDC has released a study regarding the safety of the H1N1 vaccine based on vaccinations given nationwide from October 1 through November 24, with the results reaffirming that the vaccine is as safe as the seasonal flu vaccine. The CDC tracks adverse reactions to all vaccinations through the U.S. Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).
Using data submitted to VAERS during the first two months of the H1N1 vaccination campaign, the CDC found that while the H1N1 vaccine did have a slightly higher reported proportion than the seasonal flu vaccine of adverse events such as a sore arm or redness at the injection site, there was not a substantial difference in the number of serious adverse events, such as those requiring hospitalization or leading to death.
"Although the reporting of adverse events following H1N1 vaccination is more common, the severity of events is rare, mostly mild, and similar to seasonal influenza vaccine," said Dr. Frank Welch, LDH Medical Director for Pandemic Preparedness. "This reaffirms to the health care community and the public that the H1N1 vaccine is safe and effective, and we certainly encourage everyone in the target groups to get their vaccination."
The CDC reports that while the total number of reported adverse events for the H1N1 vaccine was higher, the percentage of serious adverse events among all adverse events reported for the seasonal flu vaccine was slightly higher, at 6.1 percent, when compared with the percentage of serious adverse events for the H1N1 vaccine, at 5.4 percent. These percentages held up for both the nasal spray and injectable formulations. The CDC study can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm58e1204a1.htm?s_cid=mm58e1204a1_e.
Residents that are in target populations for the H1N1 are encouraged to stay in contact with their provider and make an appointment to receive the H1N1 vaccine when appropriate. If their provider has not registered to administer the vaccine, residents can also make an appointment to receive it at public locations, such as pharmacies, public health units, rural health clinics, and federally-qualified health centers. More than 1,000 providers across the state have received vaccine, including more than 500 public providers.
The newly-announced target groups for the H1N1 vaccine come in frequent contact with groups shown to be at high-risk for complications arising from the H1N1 flu, such as children and young adults from six months through 24 years old and non-elderly adults with chronic medical conditions. These groups were able to get the H1N1 vaccine starting two months ago. Target groups for the H1N1 vaccine are:
- Children and young adults aged up to 24 years
- Pregnant women
- Adults with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease
- Caregivers of children under six months of age
- Frontline healthcare workers, including emergency medical services
- Parents who are caregivers for persons with disabilities
- Providers of home and community-based health services who have close and consistent contact with people with disabilities
- Those providing health care support services in day and residential programs for people with disabilities.
DHH's Fight the Flu campaign aims to keep Louisianians healthy by promoting immunizations and good hygiene to prevent the spread of the seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus. For more information on flu activity in Louisiana, including guidance for families and medical professionals, visit http://www.fighttheflula.com/ or follow the campaign at www.twitter.com/FightTheFluLA.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov.