CMS starts swine flu vaccinations today
Today, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will begin vaccinating students against the H1N1 flu virus. The district plans to offer the vaccine at six schools every day, rotating through the district until all students have a chance to receive it, starting with the youngest. The six schools offering swine flu vaccines today are Billingsville, Hidden Valley and J.H. Gunn elementary schools and the Pre-K programs at Amay James, Starmount and Tryon Hills. Mecklenburg County School Health Director Maria Bonaiuto says they're starting with the youngest children in the district because they need to receive two doses of the vaccine to be protected from the flu. Since getting shots can be traumatic for kids, Bonaiuto says the schools have made special arrangements. "We've invited parents to come and be with their children," says Bonaiuto. "We've scheduled them so they will know what time of day each group is going to get their vaccinations. If they can't, we have lots of volunteers and nurses who will be there to comfort them. Most of the children will get the nasal vaccine and there's absolutely no pain and no discomfort to that." Only children whose parents have signed and returned consent forms will receive the H1N1 vaccine. CMS officials say those forms were sent home with all students in the last week. Bonaiuto expects about 34,000 of the district's 136,000 students will ultimately be vaccinated against the swine flu over the next three months. Bonaiuto says children are at higher risk for getting the swine flu. "We know that nationally there are some very sick children and we need to make sure that our children stay safe and healthy," says Bonaiuto. To that end, the federal government is providing the vaccine free-of-charge. For the next few weeks, nearly all of Mecklenburg County's flu vaccine shipments will be reserved for CMS students. Parents with questions about the dates and times of vaccine clinics should contact their child's school.