Swine flu vaccine clinics scheduled in Valley

Rindi White

WASILLA -- Three swine flu vaccine shot clinics for Mat-Su Borough school students are scheduled over the next six weeks, and Alaska Public Health officials plan to hold two more clinics for the general public.

Mat-Su Borough School District spokeswoman Catherine Esary said the district is holding H1N1 vaccination clinics between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on three upcoming Saturdays, Nov. 14 and 21 and Dec. 12 at Colony High School.

The clinics are for enrolled School District students only -- not staff, siblings or parents.

Students must be accompanied by a parent or guardian who will be required to sign a permission slip for the vaccination.

Esary said the district has had a few flu-related absences but so far has not had to close any schools

"We do have a plan in place if we reach a certain level. It will be sort of a community-based decision," Esary said.

The critical level is 40 percent absences in students and staff, though Esary said the concern was more with teachers and staff than students.

Students out sick can still get lesson plans and make up work, she said, but if a teacher is out or the school is closed, it's more difficult for everyone to keep up.

Esary said the district is not encouraging students to get the vaccine.

"We're just making it available," she said. "That's really a parental and medical decision."

The H1N1 vaccinations are free.

Health center offers clinics

Jane Conard, nurse manager of the Mat-Su Public Health Center in Wasilla, said her office has scheduled two mass-dispensing clinics, also offering free shots, aimed at vaccinating young adults.

The first will be from 3 to 7 p.m. Nov. 19 at Mat-Su College and the second from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 17 at the Menard Sports Center in Wasilla.

Conard said she's not yet sure how many doses will be available at those clinics. "If we don't have enough vaccine, we will prioritize," she said.

Conard said children under 5 years old are the age group most frequently hospitalized with swine flu symptoms. The second group with the most illness-related hospitalizations are children younger than 19. The 25- to 49-year-old age group is next, she said.

As of Oct. 27, the state has shipped out 36,100 doses of H1N1 vaccine to public health and private providers, hospitals, pharmacies and certain universities.

Amid the flurry of activity aimed at providing H1N1 vaccine to residents, Conard said the Mat-Su Public Health office, at 3223 E. Palmer-Wasilla Highway #3 near Wasilla, will give seasonal flu shots by appointment. Appointments can be made by calling 352-6600.

Find Rindi White online at adn.com/contact/rwhite or call her at 352-6709.