By Matt Wiley
The fall is the time of year when the influenza virus hits more people and it’s important to get your annual immunization to help combat the sometimes-deadly “flu bug.” Luckily for more than 100 Seven Oaks Elementary students, instead of the traditional flu shot, they received their immunization in a completely different way this year—through inhalation.
Through a partnership with the Florida Department of Health (FDH) in Pasco County and the Pasco County School District (PCSD), Healthy Schools, LLC, was able to provide free FluMist flu vaccinations to more than 1,500 students across the county, including hundreds at Wesley Chapel’s 11 public schools (although that total still was not known at our press time). The vaccination came in the form of a mist that is administered as a nasal spray, instead of through a needle.
“It tickled a little bit,” said Seven Oaks Elementary student Aleena Cayed, after receiving her vaccination on November 11 from a Healthy Schools nurse in the school’s library. “It was just like smelling something.”
To kick off the free immunization week, PCSD held a news conference at Seven Oaks Elementary, where 150 students received the vaccination, which was attended by PCSD superintendent of schools Kurt Browning, as well as Pasco County’s FDH administrator Mike Napier and Healthy Schools’ founder and president Tony Boselli.
“Our goal and our mission is to provide free flu vaccinations to Florida’s public schools system,” Boselli said. “Kids are cute, but they’re ‘super-spreaders’ of viruses. When kids get sick, everyone gets sick. And, when they have to stay home, it creates an economic strain (on families). It’s not good for anyone. This is an initiative led by the Health Department, (PCSD) and us to protect all of Pasco County. We’re very excited about it.”
Boselli says that, so far, more than 95,000 students across the state of Florida have been vaccinated through Healthy Schools with FluMist, adding that by working with major health insurance companies, the company is able to ensure that students receive vaccinations at no cost to the student’s family.
The vaccine, which was approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for anyone ages 2-49 in 2003, is a preservative-free nasal spray. According to the Healthy Schools website, the mist is gently sprayed into the nose, where the virus typically enters the body. The vaccine utilizes live, but weakened, influenza virus strains so as not to actually cause symptoms of the flu. The most common side effects are reportedly brief and include a runny or stuffy nose, sore throat or fever. The strains are the same that are administered in a regular flu shot, which are determined by the FDA.
Permission slips were sent home with students about two weeks before the first day of vaccinations. Students were not required to take the vaccine, which was administered on an optional basis.
“Children who have been vaccinated help protect their family and friends by not spreading the illness throughout the community,” Napier said. “Protection against preventable diseases should always be a priority for all ages. Using strategies of hygiene and regular vaccinations is key. It’s partnerships like these that strengthen our ability to improve the health of our children in Pasco County.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reports that, although the mortality rate associated with the flu virus fluctuates each year, depending upon the severity of the strains, during a 30-year study, it was revealed that the number of U.S. flu deaths each year can range between 3,000-49,000. The CDC reports that flu activity is beginning to pick up this season, which lasts from October through May, usually peaking between December and February.
For more information about Healthy Schools, LLC, please visit HealthySchoolsLLC.com.