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Ashland students get H1N1 vaccine

ASHLAND — About 100 Ashland students received the H1N1 vaccine this week, and parents are scrambling to sign their children up for the remaining immunization slots, district health officials said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, about 250 doses of the vaccine were still available to district students.

"We've had parents calling all day," said Carol Robinson, receptionist at the Ashland High School health center. "Parents received that letter (stating that the vaccine was available) and they've been calling to sign their kids up."

School administrators believe they will be able to request more vaccine if they run out, but it's unclear how long it could take for additional doses to arrive, said Samuel Bogdanove, the district's director of student services.

"We haven't heard any details — only that it will be made available to us," he said Tuesday afternoon. "I know that there are still shortages nationally, but I'm not sure what the timing will be."

The district has 2,798 students, so in theory about 13 percent of all students could initially be vaccinated against the virus, known as swine flu.

Ashland High School held a clinic Tuesday to vaccinate about 40 students and staff members. District staff members with secondary health concerns are eligible to receive the vaccine.

"If we have another wave (of H1N1 in the schools), then it will be very helpful to have kids vaccinated," said Judy Blickenstaff, a nurse practitioner who works at the Ashland High School health center. "We haven't even started flu season yet."

The number of H1N1-related absences in the district peaked in the seven days ending Oct. 15, when 386 students were absent with flu symptoms. Since then, the number of absences due to flu symptoms has substantially decreased, Bogdanove said.

At Ashland middle and elementary schools, 42 students and 16 staff members had been vaccinated as of Tuesday afternoon.

"It's a relief to finally have it here," said Belinda Brown, school nurse. "Parents have been extremely appreciative that we're providing this service in the schools."

District health officials are administering the vaccine to high-risk students and staff members first, and then to other students in the order they have requested it.

To schedule a vaccination appointment at Ashland High School, call 541-482-8771, ext. 226. To schedule an appointment for a student in a district middle or elementary school, e-mail Brown at nurse@ashland.k12.or.us.

Children who are not enrolled in Ashland public schools and other community members can receive the H1N1 vaccine through Jackson County health offices or their doctors. For more information call the Jackson County Immunization Hotline at 774-6444.

Contact Ashland Daily Tidings staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.