By Monte Miller
Missourian Staff Writer
Letters went home last week in three Franklin County public school districts announcing a new initiative by the county health department to give students their proper vaccinations.
Health Department Supervisor Angie Hittson said the new program offers parents the opportunity to get their children’s inoculations up-to-date cheaply and easily while they are at school.
“It is my hope by offering this clinic during school hours it can provide families access to immunization services while limiting the amount of time parents have to miss from work and students miss from class,” she said. “We’ve been working with the school nurses in several districts.”
Thus far, the St. Clair, Union and Meramec Valley R-3 school districts have agreed to the program and Hittson and her staff have identified about 400 students who are not currently complaint with the vaccines.
“In all noncompliant cases we find some kind of barrier,” Hittson said. “Whether it’s no insurance or the parents don’t have time or transportation. This will allow what usually takes two to three hours to only take 15 minutes.”
According to the letter sent to parents, the health department will be offering the vaccines for $20. Private insurance or Medicaid can be billed just like at a doctor’s office.
They will be offering four vaccines. Meningococcal and Tdap are required by state law. They also will offer the Gardasil (HPV) and the 2017-1018 flu vaccine if requested.
School age children are required to have vaccines in kindergarten, middle school and high school.
Hittson did stress they will not be offering kindergarten vaccines.
“By law, students are supposed to have their vaccines by Oct. 15,” Hittson said. “In a lot of cases the children already have their vaccines, but the paperwork didn’t get to the schools. Through this program, we’ve already cleared that up for some students.”
Hittson said health department staff will be heading to several schools as early as next week and will work their way through the participating districts until mid-October.
They will work with the school nurses in each building and travel with their own cots, privacy partitions and other equipment with them.
After the students are given their vaccines, they will be monitored for a short time for any side effects then sent back to class.
Parents must preregister their children for the in-school vaccine program and of the hundreds of letters sent home, Hittson said they have already been receiving responses.
She is pleased three of the larger county school districts have already agreed to participate, and said administrations in New Haven and Washington are reviewing the program as well.
She hopes to contact over a dozen parochial and private schools in the county about the program in the near future as well.
If the pilot program is successful, Hittson hopes to tweak it to different times of the year ahead of vaccine deadlines and offer flu shots each year as well.
For more information on the program or to register your child, contact the Franklin County Health Department at 636-583-7303 or 636-583-7311.