It's almost mechanical: A quick lift of the sleeve, wipe with alcohol, needle stick, Band-aid. But it could stop the spread of H1N1 flu - at least among area schoolchildren.
Volunteer nurses vaccinated nearly 200 students at Hall High School and Dalzell Elementary School before 11 a.m. Monday. Diana Rawlings, administrator of Bureau County Health Department, said clinics began last week at Bureau County schools and will continue all day through most of next week as the health department works to vaccinate as many of the county's 5,995 students as parents will allow.
The county has one dose of vaccine for each student. When student vaccinations are complete, the health department will make the remaining vaccine available to the county's next priority group. Priority groups are determined by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and Rawlings said it has not yet been determined which group will be next to receive the vaccine.
Pat Lebahn, communicable disease coordinator, said a second dose of the vaccine is required for children six months to 9 years old, but the county will try to serve the other CDC priority groups first. Right now, those groups include pregnant women, people six months to 24 years old, new parents with infants younger than six months and people who are 64 and younger with underlying health conditions.
Teachers are not in a priority group and so are eligible to receive the vaccine from the flu department, though Hall superintendent Mike Struna said it would be covered by their health care plan if it becomes available through other means. Hall teachers also did not receive their usual seasonal flu shot this year because not enough vaccine was available, as labs rushed to produce the H1N1 vaccine, Struna said.
Shots were being administered Monday by health department officials at Princeton's elementary and junior high schools. Volunteers from St. Margaret's Hospital administered the clinics at Dalzell and Hall.
"It's tough, but out community has really drawn together to helpâ€¦ It makes a big difference," Rawlings said.
She recommended area residents remember the basics of preventing the spread of flu: cover your mouth with your sleeve when you cough, wash your hands regularly and stay home if you're sick.
At Hall High School, the flu seems to have taken hold. Struna said 52 students (in a school of about 399) were out of school Monday due to flu-like symptoms.
"We'll have to keep a close eye on it," he said.
The school has canceled its usual end-of-semester field trip for students who have first attendance, to discourage children from coming to school when they have a virus.
"That sends the wrong message to kids," Struna said.