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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 8, 2010

School program helped Hawaii avoid H1N1


By Dr. Sarah Park and Dr. Chiyome Leinaala Fukino

Nearly a year ago, we were wrapping up a second successful year of the Stop Flu at School seasonal influenza vaccination program. The clinics were long since completed, we had tallied the final numbers of keiki vaccinated and were about to award the top-performing schools at an event when the 2009 H1N1 hit our country.

The mahalo event took place just days after the first H1N1 influenza cases began appearing in our state. What started as a few clusters of cases around the country would expand into a full-blown pandemic, forcing the world to deal with the widespread impacts of H1N1 influenza.

Yet, despite the emerging H1N1 threat or perhaps because of it, we were determined to continue our plans for the 2009-2010 Stop Flu at School program to fulfill our commitment to ensuring the health of our keiki as well as our communities here in Hawai'i.

Together with 342 public and private schools as well as participating organizations, parents, and keiki, we vaccinated more than 71,000 students and 9,700 teachers against seasonal influenza this year. Even without the added strain of a global H1N1 pandemic, this Stop Flu at School program requires the tremendous coordinated effort and devotion of many vital partners. Confidence borne of experience and lessons learned from past Stop Flu at School campaigns ensured that we would protect our keiki not only against seasonal flu but also eventually against H1N1 flu.

The Department of Health extends a sincere, heartfelt mahalo for this year's successful Stop Flu at School campaign, conducted during especially challenging conditions. Credit and thanks go especially to the Hawai'i state Department of Education, Hawaii Association of Independent Schools, Catholic Schools of Hawaii, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hawai'i chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics and Academy of Family Physicians, Kaiser Permanente, and the Hawaii Medical Service Association. Most of all, a special mahalo to the parents, who recognize that protecting their children from flu not only helps them and their families, but our entire community.

As we look ahead, we count our blessings that Hawai'i, unlike the other 49 states, did not suffer a second "wave" of H1N1 flu. That, combined with the current low level of flu-like illness activity may cause some to relax and let our guard down. A resurgence of the highly unpredictable flu could be disastrous for an unprepared community. Bottom line: This is our chance to continue vaccinating and protecting as many as possible against H1N1 flu.

At the same time, we call on schools, parents, children, and our partners to continue to work together so that this fall's seasonal flu vaccination program sees an even higher participation rate.