This week, New York City’s elementary school students will begin taking home H1N1 information packets that include vaccination consent and screening forms for the City’s upcoming school-based vaccination initiative. By signing and returning the forms – also available in 10 languages at nyc.gov/flu –
parents can have their children vaccinated free-of-charge against the H1N1
influenza virus. The packets will be sent home with children over the next two
weeks, starting today. All materials are available in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese,
English, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Urdu.
As part of the comprehensive influenza-prevention plan
that Mayor Bloomberg outlined before school started this fall, the City will
provide the H1N1 vaccine at no cost to public and non-public school students
beginning in late October. Elementary schools will schedule vaccination clinics
during regular school days. Weekend vaccine clinics for middle-school and
high-school students will be held in each borough during November and
“Vaccination is the best weapon we have against
influenza,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, New York City Health Commissioner. “Children
are especially susceptible to the H1N1 strain, so we hope parents will ensure
that their kids are protected. Getting vaccinated is safe, effective and simple.
Thanks to this initiative, it’s also free.”
“Our schools are working closely with the Health
Department to make sure all of our students receive the vaccine if their parents
want them immunized,” said Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. “The program is
voluntary and we will not vaccinate children without parental consent, so we
encourage families to sign the consent forms and send them back within three
days of receiving them.”
The Health Department encourages parents to have their
children vaccinated by their regular health care providers if possible. By the
end of this week, more than 600 providers who requested H1N1 vaccine will have
doses in stock and ready to administer. These providers include some hospital
clinics and community health centers as well as private pediatricians. Though
H1N1 vaccine is now increasingly available for children and health care
providers who want to be immunized, the federal government has yet to distribute
enough vaccine to cover other populations. Federal authorities expect
allocations to increase in coming weeks. The school vaccination program is
intended to ensure that no child goes unvaccinated for lack of access. Public
elementary schools are participating, and non-public schools have the option to
participate. The city-wide, school-based vaccination program will last
approximately eight weeks. The weekend clinics for middle-school and high-school
students will open in early November at sites in all five boroughs.
Besides protecting children from the H1N1 virus, the
school vaccination effort could help prevent children from infecting others. The
novel H1N1 virus typically causes only a few days of fever, cough and sore
throat, and most people get better without any treatment. But influenza can
cause severe illness or death, especially among people with underlying health
The H1N1 vaccine comes in two forms: an injection and a
nasal spray. Children may receive one form or the other; the nurse administering
the vaccine will determine which form is appropriate for each child by reviewing
information on the consent and screening forms completed by parents. Children
under 10 years old will need two doses of the vaccine to get full protection.
Once children are vaccinated, it takes about 10 days to develop immunity to the
H1N1 virus. After school-based vaccination, parents will receive written
confirmation that their children have received the vaccine. Parents are
instructed to give a copy of the medical document to the child’s medical
The H1N1 vaccine is produced in exactly the same way
that seasonal influenza vaccines are routinely produced, and it has been
rigorously tested. The only difference is that this vaccine helps the immune
system recognize and combat the H1N1 virus. As with any vaccine, influenza
vaccines can cause mild side effects, but serious reactions are exceedingly
Each year, an estimated 1,100 New Yorkers die from
influenza and its complications, and many others become ill. While many parts of
the country are now battling high rates of influenza, New York City has yet to
see an increase in infections this fall. Nonetheless, the Health
Department expects influenza to return to the city at some time and is strongly
encouraging parents to have all children immunized to protect them from it.
The seasonal influenza vaccine does not provide immunity
against the H1N1 virus. New Yorkers wanting protection will need to get a
separate vaccine. The seasonal influenza vaccine is available through health
care providers and pharmacies.
Because certain people are at increased risk of
complications from H1N1 influenza, vaccination against this type of influenza is
especially important for them. The following people should receive the H1N1
- Pregnant women.
- People aged 6 months to 24 years.
- People aged 25 to 64 years with long-term health
- People who live with or care for children younger
than 6 months.
- Health care and emergency medical workers.
More details are available at cdc.gov/h1n1flu/.
Although students will be given consent forms to bring
home, parents can download the forms from nyc.gov/flu, sign printed copies and send them back to
school with their children. Consent forms will also be available on site at the
weekend vaccination clinics for middle-school and high-school students. More
information about influenza is available at nyc.gov/flu or by calling 311.