Free flu shots at select Hawaii public schools underway
  • Friday, November 16, 2018
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Free flu shots at select Hawaii public schools underway

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    A nurse prepares a flu shot at the Salvation Army in Atlanta in February. Approximately 30,000 Hawaii students are expected to be vaccinated through the Stop Flu program.

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The state Health Department begins its annual Stop Flu at School program today, offering free flu shots for students in kindergarten to eighth grade at 177 public schools statewide through Dec. 7.

Approximately 30,000 students are expected to be vaccinated through the program, which will be available at all elementary and intermediate public schools on Kauai, Maui and Hawaii counties, and public schools on Oahu which have a history of at least 40 percent of students participating in the free and reduced-price meal program.

Participation is voluntary, and a vaccination consent form for participating children is required.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends an annual flu vaccination for everyone ages six months and older. During the last flu season, which traditionally begins in early October and runs through late May, the CDC reported 180 pediatric flu-related deaths in the United States — with 80 percent that occurred in children who had not received a flu vaccination.

“While there were no influenza-associated pediatric deaths reported in Hawaii during the 2017-2018 season, flu circulates year-round in Hawaii and is unpredictable, which is why it is crucial to get vaccinated each year,” said state epidemiologist Sarah Park.

The department said flu vaccines this season have been updated to provide protection against circulating flu viruses expected to be most common, based on data from the past season.

Vaccination is the best defense against the flu, said Park, and can help prevent illness and decreases the risk of severe illness, which can result in hospitalizations and death.

“Vaccinating our school-age children will help reduce the spread of flu in our communities and protect those at risk of serious illness, including infants too young to be vaccinated, adults over 65, pregnant women, and those with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, and heart disease,” she said.

For those unable to be vaccinated through the Stop Flu at School program, the flu vaccine is available through health care providers and clinics as well as pharmacies.

The state Health Department offers a list of vaccinating pharmacies statewide online.

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