Feds: Distribute H1N1 Vaccine at Schools

Federal officials say schools should become distribution centers of H1N1 vaccine shots this fall, an idea that has created some controversy.

Washington is issuing guidelines Friday to help schools try to prevent a resurgence of the H1N1 flu when kids come back and manage a renewed outbreak if it develops.

On "The Early Show" Friday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said schools should "absolutely" take a leading role in getting children vaccinated.

"We want our schools to be sites for the distribution of the vaccine," he told co-anchor Harry Smith. " ... We want children to get vaccinated. It will obviously be a parent's choice. This will actually be a two-shot vaccine. So, you have to do it once and then come back a couple of weeks later. But we think schools can be a big part of the solution."

CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton pointed out that there will probably be a total of three flu shots recommended this fall -- the two for H1N1, and another for seasonal flu.

Asked by Smith if he's satisfied that "the government has pushed the drug companies hard enough to make a vaccine available early enough," Duncan said, "Folks are working extraordinarily hard. We've been in constant daily collaboration and communication with CDC (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), HHS (the Department of Health and Human Services), with the Department of Agriculture in terms of feeding children. We're anticipating the ... vaccine will be available in mid-October."

Duncan said federal officials want schools to "prepare for the worst but also know that we want to get off to a great start the school year.

" ... We're going to put out clear guidance, and the decision (about) whether or not to close schools will always be made at the local level. We want to provide as much facts and information as we can so that local school districts and local health departments can make a good decision.

"Basically, this will be a tiered response. If there are a handful of children at a school who might be sick, we want parents to keep those children home. We want them to plan now to do that. If the numbers start to escalate dramatically, then it might make sense to close the school."

We're asking parents to practice common sense, to monitor their children," he said. "If children are coughing, have them cough into a sleeve. We're talking about frequent hand washing, as well."

Ashton also noted that, "In the Southern Hemisphere, where its winter, H1N1 has became the dominant strain of flu, infecting thousands," with a death toll of 500, what she called a "grim warning for the U.S."

Dr. William Schaffner, of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, had a grim warning of his own, telling Ashton, "The H1N1 virus has been smoldering this summer among children, largely in summer camps, so it's ready to, we're afraid, explode once schools reconvene. ... There's a bit of a race between the virus and getting the vaccine out there first."

And Ashton says one CDC projection has 40 percent of the nation, 140 million Americans getting H1N1 this fall and winter.



For much more from federal agencies on H1N1 and kids, click here.
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