Acting on the advice of the health officials, Harford County Public Schools have postponed plans to dispense the Seasonal FluMist to elementary and middle school children to focus instead on administering the H1N1 vaccine as soon as it becomes available.
According to a September 29th letter informing parents of the decision, the seasonal flu peaks in February whereas “the majority of flu virus currently circulating in Maryland is the 2009 H1N1 type.” The H1N1 vaccine is not yet available, but the letter goes on to say that it is expected to come in intranasal (mist) form and sooner than originally anticipated, all of which prompted the change in plans.
Here is the text of the letter to parents, sent jointly from Harford County Health Officer Susan Kelly and Dr. Robert Tomback, Superintendent of HCPS:
September 29, 2009
As you may have heard, the 2009 H1N1 (novel, “Swine”) influenza virus, was first identified in the United States in April 2009. This virus has caused illness ranging from mild to severe, including hospitalizations and deaths in adults and children. This virus is easily spread from person to person and it poses a greater risk to school children than seasonal influenza. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has recommended that children and young adults aged 6 months through 24 years be vaccinated against the 2009 H1N1 as soon as the vaccine is available.
The majority of flu virus currently circulating in Maryland is the 2009 H1N1 type. Seasonal flu typically does not peak until February. Therefore, our immediate concern is protecting children against the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus. The 2009 H1N1 vaccine will be available in an intranasal (mist) form and it will be available earlier than anticipated. In light of this information, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene recently advised all local health departments to postpone their Seasonal FluMist influenza program in order to focus on administering the H1N1 vaccine to school aged children.
In accordance with this advice, the Harford County Public Schools Seasonal FluMist program will be rescheduled to a later date and the no cost H1N1 FluMist vaccine will be provided as soon as possible. This shift will allow us to protect school aged children against the H1N1 influenza virus that is currently circulating. You will receive information regarding the H1N1 FluMist program as soon as vaccine delivery and scheduling can be arranged. The Seasonal FluMist program will be resumed after the H1N1 FluMist program. The seasonal flu vaccine does not protect against the H1N1 flu and the H1N1 flu vaccine does not protect against seasonal flu.
Once a consent form is finalized, it will be forwarded to you to complete and return to school. This consent will be specific for the H1N1 vaccine and therefore, the seasonal consent that you already completed cannot be used for this vaccine. Questions about the H1N1 FluMist program can be directed to your school nurse.
We regret any confusion or difficulties this may present to you and your family. Thank you for your patience and flexibility as we respond to this rapidly changing public health issue, in the best interest of our children.
Susan Kelly, RS Robert M. Tomback, Ph.D.
Health Officer Superintendent of Schools