Like most kids, I never liked getting shots when I was younger. Yesterday morning, I was recalling those days and thinking whether it would have been easier had they been given with the Health Commissioner, the School Chancellor and a room full of television cameras in the room.
That’s exactly how students at P.S. 157 in Brooklyn got their H1N1 vaccinations delivered yesterday. They were among the first New York school children to be given the new vaccine as the City kicked off its campaign. The kids got their shots or nasal spray (the former for those with asthma or other respiratory issues) with Commissioner Thomas Farley and Chancellor Joel Klein and a passel of local media looking on.
NINE-YEAR-OLD FRANCISCO GOMEZ (ABOVE) GETS HIS H1N1 VACCINE AS NYC SCHOOL CHANCELLOR JOEL KLEIN AND HEALTH COMMISSIONER THOMAS FARLEY LOOK ON.
Though the vaccinations and media event seemed to go well, it did highlight one of the challenges for the program: getting parental permission slips in. At P.S. 157 as of yesterday morning, according to officials, 115 kids were cleared out of the student body of 369 (or 31%). Officials said that they expect that percentage to go up soon. And, Chancellor Klein said that many children in the school system will be going to their own doctors for the vaccination.
The City’s program, which aims to cover 300,00 children, will expand its rollout to middle and high schools early next month. Another issue for the New York school system is the diversity of the student body, and the Health Department’s web site offers information and consent forms in 10 languages
LESLIE CRUZ BEING INTERVIEWED BY THE MEDIA (ABOVE) AFTER GETTING HER H1N1 FLU SHOT.
At P.S. 157, the students seemed a bit overwhelmed by all the press (though it may have distracted them from any vaccine discomfort). But I think the coverage will have a positive impact on the H1N1 rollout here: most of the news stories included interviews with kids who said the vaccination wasn’t a big deal and parents who felt the risk of H1N1 outweighed any concerns about the vaccine. Typical was this article (accompanied by a video) on the website of the New York Times (which, continues. despite my blog post on Monday, to use the term Swine Flu interchangeably with H1N1):
Despite an extensive outreach campaign — including the distribution of screening and consent forms to all parents and guardians — doubts have lingered. The parents who streamed in and out of the rain at P.S. 157 expressed mixed views, but in most cases, they said their concerns about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine were outweighed by worry that that their children might contract the H1N1 virus.
“I have a lot of questions, but I think it’s a good thing,” said Reina Mendez, who was dropping off her 9-year-old grandson.
Jimmy Rivera, who has two sons, 7 and 5, at the school, said: “I wasn’t really convinced about it, but after I did a little research on the computer, I decided it was a good idea. Actually, I had a debate with my wife — my wife wanted it.”