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Pa. Health Department Ending Free Flu Shots For Schoolchildren

By John McDevitt

LOWER MERION, Pa. (CBS) -- The Pennsylvania Department of Health is pulling the plug on its free program of flu shots for schoolkids.

Letters are going out to parents from various school districts in the Commonwealth, saying that due to federal budget cuts, free influenza vaccines will no longer be available.

"My understanding is, from the director of the Department of Health, the Division of Immunizations, that their funding was cut by 56 percent and that made them unable to supply the vaccine to the participating school districts," said Terry Quinlan, supervisor of health services for the Lower Merion School District.

She says more than 25 percent of Lower Merion school district kids took advantage of the program in the past, making it one of the largest participants.

Quinlan says even though schools do not offer flu shots for children, she strongly urges parents to get them for their kids.

"We might be able to get a third party to run some evening clinics," she adds.  "We are working with the Department of Health to see if they have any funds, (and asking) the Montgomery County Department of Health to run some evening community programs.   But right now that's just a wish -- we don't have anything firm in place."

The Pennsylvania Department of Health also recommends that the following groups NOT get flu shots:  

• People who  have a severe allergy to hen's eggs;

• People who have had a severe reaction to a flu shot in the past; or

• People who previously developed Guillain-Barré Syndrome in the six weeks after getting a flu vaccine.  (GBS is a rare disorder in which the body's immune system attacks nerves.)


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