School flu shots reduce absences by half

CHARLESTON, W.Va., Oct. 30 (UPI) -- Providing flu shots to students in the Charleston, W.Va., area while they were at school resulted in a drop in absences in 2010-2011, officials say.

Dr. Rahul Gupta, executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, said during the 2010-2011 flu season Kanawha County's public and private schools had about 50 percent fewer absences than expected, the Charleston Gazette reported.


Gupta and other health officials are scheduled to travel to San Francisco to make a presentation Wednesday on the in-school vaccination clinics at the American Public Health Association annual meeting.

"The presentation is a recognition that this was an innovative model. We presented part of it last year. This year we will present the absentee data to show that fewer kids are staying out of school," Gupta told the Gazette. "We're getting calls from all over the country, from Minnesota to California. People are asking us for information. They want to replicate the model."

The program began in 2009 when the Health Department vaccinated students against the H1N1 "swine flu" virus with federally funded vaccinations, but since then, the Health Department offered flu vaccines to students each year by billing the insurance plans of the students instead of using grants or government funds, Gupta said.


Health officials asked parents to volunteer their insurance information. About 91 percent of the parents provided it voluntarily and the remaining students got a federally funded vaccine, Gupta said.

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