School flu shot program begins despite hiccups


By MEGAN MOSELEY

Tribune-Herald staff writer

Hawaii epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park plans on garnering more sustainable funding for the state’s annual Stop Flu at School Program that started Tuesday.

The program, which provides free flu vaccinations for 300 public, private, and charter schools statewide until Nov. 27, continues to struggle for funding, despite entering its seventh successful year.

“As a result of the sequester, we did see major cuts to vaccine funds and operational funds, which presented some challenges and added more pressures for both my staff and myself” she said.

The ongoing government shutdown has also created hurdles for the state Department of Health program. Park said her office is currently trying to ascertain how they will get vaccines and supplies to and from the clinics, since government furloughs have interfered with the hiring of drivers who transport the supplies.

Park still plans to have the clinics running smoothly.

“This program will continue, come hell or high water,” she said. “We’re going to complete the program as planned, and we’re still the only state to offer this type of service to all its families.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the voluntary school-based program that offers free nasal mists or shots has the highest success rate in the nation within its age cohort, which includes children between the ages of 5 and 13.

Annette Arruda, health aide at Waiakea Elementary School, contends the program has been invaluable over the past few years.

“The program has been very beneficial, not just for the students but for the staff and teachers because they’re able to get the shots, as well,” she said.

According to Arruda, 550 students and teachers received vaccines last year. The school’s student population totals 881.

According to a press release, the DOH will vaccinate more than 60,000 students during the six-week program. Volunteers from the Hawaii Medical Reserve Corps, state Department of Defense, Kaiser Permanente, University of Hawaii at Hilo College of Pharmacy, nursing programs at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Hawaii Pacific University, Kapiolani Community College, Chaminade University, UH-Hilo, Kauai County Community College, and UH-Maui College will assist in its operation.

For more information about the Stop Flu at School program, go to http://flu.hawaii.gov/sfas.html, or call the Aloha United Way information and referral line at 2-1-1.

Email Megan Moseley at mmoseley@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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