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Anchorage schools offer free flu vaccine, vaccinate 7,000 so far

Rosemary Shinohara
Bill Roth

The Anchorage School District is offering flu vaccines for free to students and has so far vaccinated almost 7,000 students in about half of its schools, district nursing director Nancy Edtl said Wednesday.

Although an outbreak is already under way in Anchorage, Edtl said the district's school nurses haven't noticed a lot of cases yet.

Distributing the vaccine is up to school nurses, Edtl said. Parents must first give permission for their children to receive the vaccine. The vaccine should be available at every elementary school, she said, and also can be distributed in middle and high schools.

If it isn't happening at a particular school, parents need to ask the nurse or principal about it, she said.

Flu vaccines are also available for children and adults, generally for a small charge, at pharmacies, doctors' offices, the city health clinic at 835 L St., and the Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center off C Street near International Airport Road.

Children on Medicaid or who are American Indian or Alaska Native, and children or adults who are uninsured or underinsured can get free flu vaccines at the city health department, 825 L St., said state immunization program manager Gerri Yett.

There's no shortage of vaccine this year, Yett said.

The School District will have enough doses of the flu mist -- "a quick, painless squirt in each nostril" -- for as many students as have parents' permission, Edtl said. There are a few injectable vaccines for students who have health problems that prohibit taking the nasal mist.

The vaccine has been available at 47 of the district's 97 schools so far, mostly elementary schools. But Crossroads and Steller secondary schools, Romig, Gruening, Clark and Begich middle schools and South and Service highs have been covered, Edtl said.

The district will continue vaccinating young people until Christmas break, she said.

"My goal is to do about 40 percent. With that many you have a good immunity rate," not only for the kids vaccinated but for others as well, she said.

The vaccine comes from the state and does not cost the district anything.

Experts estimate that for every kid who gets the flu, six other children are infected, she said.

Reach Rosemary Shinohara at rshinohara@adn.com or 257-4340.


By ROSEMARY SHINOHARA
rshinohara@adn.com