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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, November 14, 2009

Moanalua Middle gets swine flu shots

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Eighth-grader Zachery Puulei-Loi-On preferred not to watch as nurse Jennifer Sua vaccinated him yesterday. Moanalua Middle School students were first up as the state began free H1N1 vaccination clinics at schools.

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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MOANALUA Students at Moanalua Middle School yesterday were the first in a clinic program for schools to get the H1N1 vaccine, the swine flu vaccine. The state program will vaccinate thousands of public and private school students.

It went like a breeze. One line for the nasal spray version, another for an injection.

No one cried, though several students had their hands held. About 400 students got the vaccine yesterday.

Zachery Puulei-Loi-On rolled up his Moanalua Middle School T-shirt with apprehension.

"I don't like needles," Puulei-Loi-On said, adding, "It doesn't hurt as bad as getting injured in sports."

"This is about what we see with seasonal flu vaccinations," said Dr. Sarah Park, state Department of Health epidemiologist, of the number of students who were signed up for vaccine. "Children are part of the high-risk group and are vulnerable targets for this flu."

The state will hold 333 free H1N1 vaccination clinics at schools statewide through February, although most of the clinics are scheduled for before the winter break.

Public health officials are using the model established three years ago by the Stop Flu at School program, which gives free seasonal flu vaccinations to students, Park said. School clinics for seasonal flu vaccinations also are being held now.

Eryn Yuasa, a Moanalua Middle seventh-grader, said she's had two flu vaccinations this year so far and both were by way of nasal spray.

"It felt kind of weird, something in your nose, but you can't blow it out," Yuasa said. "My parents wanted me to get the vaccine. It felt kind of weird, but it's OK now. I don't do well with shots."

The federal government has allotted Hawai'i more than 181,000 doses of H1N1 vaccine. About 80,000 are slated for the school clinics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children 9 and younger receive a second dose of H1N1 vaccine. Parents will be responsible for getting the second dose from their doctors.

"If I can help even one child from getting the flu, then I've done my job," Park said. "These clinics are a way to ensure easy access to the vaccine."

School-age children are among the high-risk groups for the H1N1, or swine flu, virus. The first vaccinations in Hawai'i were offered to health care workers, and emergency medical service and critical civil defense personnel.

The next priority level for vaccination is anyone between the ages of 6 months and 24 years; and people with chronic medical conditions.

More doses come in weekly and once the high-risk groups get vaccinated, the general public will be inoculated against this strain of the flu.