Vaccination clinics mulled
The need to inoculate thousands of kids for swine flu this fall is encouraging state health officials to crank up the long-disused practice of school-based vaccination clinics.
The New Mexico Department of Health is also considering setting up vaccination clinics at locations like fire stations and pharmacies with the help of emergency medical technicians and pharmacists who are licensed to give vaccinations but typically do not.
The unprecedented scope of the planned swine flu vaccination effort will require new and creative approaches, state Health Secretary Dr. Alfredo Vigil said.
“We’re talking about possibly the largest vaccination effort in history,” Vigil said Thursday. Up to 900,000 New Mexicans, including those ages 6 months to 24 years, fall into a priority group to receive the vaccine under guidelines developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC predicts that states will begin receiving swine flu vaccine in mid-October. State officials say schools are logical sites for vaccination clinics because children and young adults are at greatest risk of catching swine flu.
The state Health Department confirmed Thursday that an Albuquerque High School student has swine flu. The student was fever-free as of Thursday and was planning to return to school next week.
Other targeted groups include pregnant women, health care workers and adults ages 25 to 64 with chronic illnesses.
Officials began a pilot program last year to vaccinate kids for seasonal flu at a limited number of schools, including eight Albuquerque Public Schools and all Santa Fe schools, said Margy Wienbar, the Health Department’s regional director for Bernalillo County.
The seasonal flu vaccination program will expand this fall to 33 APS schools, including Eldorado and West Mesa high schools, Wienbar said. She hopes to expand the program further when swine flu becomes available later this year.
“It would be our goal that, when we have enough vaccine, that we will go to any school that welcomes us,” she said. Statewide, school districts will offer clinics for seasonal flu vaccine, the health department said.
Wienbar was among 150 officials who met in Albuquerque last week to plan the swine flu vaccination effort in Bernalillo County.
In addition to schools, fire stations and pharmacies are also logical sites for vaccination clinics, Vigil said. In many rural areas, people often seek minor emergency medical care from EMTs at fire stations, he said.