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Cooperating To Stop Flu At School

Here’s some good news for Hawaii: We’re doing a great job vaccinating kids against the flu, and have been for years.

Ron Balajadia, Immunization branch chief for the state Department of Health, says they’re doing it by taking the fight right into Hawaii’s public, private and parochial schools.

Stop Flu at School is voluntary for students and schools, and most schools are opting in.

“In 2013,” Balajadia notes, “379 schools were eligible for the program, 323 schools participated.”

That’s an 85 percent school participation rate.

Within the participating schools, about half of the students who are eligible received the vaccinations.

Last year, Stop Flu at School vaccinated 72,000 students, faculty and school administrators.

That’s a significant accomplishment. According to Balajadia, it places Hawaii in the top five in the nation when it comes to vaccinating kids.

DOH has a lot of help from agencies and organizations in the organizing, implementing and evaluating the program, including the Department of Defense, Hawaii Department of Education, Hawaii Association of Independent Schools, Hawaii Catholic Schools, Hawaii Medical Reserve Corps and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And this year I’m giving kudos to Hawaii Association of Health Plans, which kicked in a whopping $815,000 to subsidize the program in our state.

There’s so much to like about the program. Not only does it prevent thousands of kids and faculty from getting sick, it also means these kids won’t spread the virus around when they go home to friends and family, resulting in fewer absences from school for students, from work for their parents and less chance the potentially deadly virus will be spread to the most at-risk population group: seniors.

The sign-up period just ended for this year’s program. Now DOH and schools are gearing up to bring vaccination clinics into the schools starting in November. Each participating school will have its own clinic date and time.

Parents who have signed up their children can check this link for the clinic dates and times: health.hawaii.gov/docd/flu-hawaii/SFAS_Schedule/.

Fifty percent participation of all eligible kids is nothing to sneeze at.

I’m sure a lot of parents of non-participating students are having them vaccinated by their pediatricians or elsewhere. If not, I hope you use this as a reminder for next year’s Stop Flu at School program. It’s a free and easy way to keep kids, their families and communities healthy.

Twitter: @JadeMoon1