By Natalie Conrad
Herald Staff Writer
Students across Clinton County can look forward to a potential flu-free fall and winter with a special flu-shot program.
Genesis Health System, the Genesis Health Services Foundation, Clinton County Visiting Nursing Foundation and business partners from throughout the region will create an umbrella of flu protection directly to as many as 10,000 children this fall and indirectly to thousands more who come in contact with vaccinated children.
“We want to emphasize that people of all ages should get the flu shot,” Manager of Community Health Services Michelle Cullen said.
“Kids getting the shot benefits all the people they come into contact with whether it be their parents, siblings or grandparents.”
Flu-Free Quad Cities offers vaccinations in October, a crucial time for the flu virus. The Iowa Department of Public Health recently urged all Iowans, age 6 months and older, to receive a flu vaccine. Influenza is not a “reportable disease” in Iowa, which means doctors are not required to notify IDPH each time a patient tests positive for influenza; however, IDPH conducts year-round influenza surveillance through the Iowa Influenza Surveillance Network.
This surveillance indicates what types of influenza viruses are circulating and how widespread influenza illness is. Surveillance shows cases of influenza have already begun appearing in the state among every age group and in different parts of the state.
Genesis offered flu shots to 120 students through the Flu-Free program at Jefferson Elementary on Tuesday. The nurses provide vaccinations to children kindergarten through sixth grade throughout Clinton County in October. They recently offered shots at Whittier Elementary and Calamus-Wheatland Elementary with upcoming visits to Clinton, Delwood, Northeast, Camanche and DeWitt schools.
This year, the local foundation has pledged up to $25,000. To date, they have donated $76,300 for this public health initiative.
In five years, Flu-Free Quad Cities has provided free seasonal influenza vaccinations to nearly 35,000 elementary school students in the region. The vaccinations are provided at no cost, but families are encouraged to support the program for the health of their own children and family members. A gift of $15 pays the cost of vaccination for one child.
“Last year approximately 45 percent of elementary students in Clinton County received an influenza vaccination at a school flu clinic,” Chris McClimon, community health nurse for Clinton County Public Health Genesis VNA & Hospice, DeWitt, said. “We offer injectable influenza and intranasal forms of the influenza vaccine. Approximately 66 percent of students receive the injectable influenza vaccine and 34 percent receive the intranasal influenza vaccine.”
Last year, Flu-Free Quad Cities was part of a comprehensive effort by Genesis Health System to vaccinate as many people as possible. Those efforts reached 35,000 residents of all ages directly and thousands more who avoided the flu because people they came in contact with had been protected with a vaccination.
More than 80 elementary schools participate in Flu-Free Quad Cities each year. The program has a much higher vaccination rate than normal rates for elementary age students.