Students get OK to cut class for flu clinics

Posted Oct. 26, 2009, at 10:35 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Local students who participate in the free H1N1 and seasonal flu clinics Wednesday will be allowed to arrive late to school or leave early to attend, and will be given excused absences or tardiness, school officials say.

“It’s an excused tardy and it won’t count against their perfect attendance,” Brewer Superintendent Daniel Lee said Monday. “Some kids really hold that close to their hearts.”

Bangor Regional Health and Community Services received a large shipment of seasonal and H1N1 flu vaccines on Friday and decided to hold two flu shot clinics for area prekindergarten through grade 12 students scheduled on Wednesday, Oct. 28, and Nov. 4, at the Bangor Civic Center.

The student-only flu clinic will be open 8 a.m.-9 p.m. both days for students in and around Bangor, said Shawn Yardley, the city’s health and human services director.

Both the seasonal flu and H1N1 vaccinations are recommended, he said.

Students from Bangor, Brewer, Dedham, Hermon, Orrington, SAD 22, SAD 63 and RSU 26 may participate in the two clinics. SAD 22 comprises Hampden, Newburgh and Winterport and RSU 26 comprises Orono, Veazie and Glenburn.

Five schools — John Bapst Memorial High School and All Saints Catholic School in Bangor, as well as Hermon elementary, middle and high schools — will take students to the clinics who have pre-signed permission forms. All other school departments are requiring that a parent or guardian transport their child to get permission slips signed.

SAD 22 has the permission slip posted on its Web site, sad22.us, and is allowing older students to leave in order to participate, but all others must be taken by parents, Superintendent Rick Lyons said Monday.

“At the high school, we’re allowing students to leave during the day,” but they must have pre-signed permission forms to participate in the flu clinics and a note from parents to leave school, he said. “We’re trying to make it as easy as possible.”

A memo posted on the SAD 22 Web site states, “The clinic will provide a card to those students to give to the main office when they return to school. Students will not be allowed to transport other students unless permission to do so is given by all parents involved.”

With the short notice, many parents have questions, said Carol Warmuth, school nurse for SAD 63.

“I’ve gotten lots of phone calls today,” she said Monday. “There has been a positive response from the parents,” who have expressed relief at getting access to the vaccines.

The shipment that arrived last week in Bangor is substantial, but “we don’t have enough if every student shows up,” Yardley said. “Our hope is between now and the 4th [of November] we’ll have additional supplies. We have more on order, and the promise of more to come.”

While H1N1 vaccine supplies are now limited, public health officials recommend that eventually everyone should have both the seasonal and H1N1 vaccines. Seasonal influenza is typically most deadly for the elderly and chronically ill, and H1N1 hits pregnant women, children and young adults hardest.

The free student clinics will be operated first come, first served.

Information on influenza in Maine is available at www.maine.gov/dhhs/boh/maineflu.

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