Hepatitis A outbreak holds up school flu program for now

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The Stop Flu at School program usually kicks off in October.

With the state department of health still announcing new cases of Hepatitis A each week, it’s clear the work to fight the outbreak isn’t over.

With flu season on the horizon, and vaccines on the way, the state is gearing up for it’s Stop the Flu at School program. The program brings flu vaccination clinics into any school that volunteers. This year much of the staff that coordinates the clinics has been focused on Hepatitis A, meaning the school program has been largely put on hold.

Dr. Sarah Park, the state epidemiologist, says her team is working to make sure schools get the flu shots as soon as possible, “So we are working with them on scheduling even and then of course the other part is the staffing, getting contract staffing on board to help the nurses to administer the vaccine so just scheduling that staffing is really challenging.”

The state was able to order enough flu shots to meet demand this year, but the issue will be making sure there are enough people to staff the school clinics. Some of the clinics could start by late November, but likely most of the clinics will take place in January of next year, “We always maintain with the program the goal was never to vaccinate every single child, it was basically to help parents who otherwise might not be able to get the able to take time off from work or they don’t have the means.”

While the American Academy of pediatrics recommends that kids be vaccinated by October, Dr. Park says January isn’t too late for children in Hawaii, “January or February is really probably prime time when we would see some increase in flu activity so it’s definitely not too late to get vaccinated in January.”

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