TAMPA — Students at nine public schools across Hillsborough County began receiving H1N1 inoculations Monday, making them a part of the largest mass vaccination campaign in Hillsborough County in almost two decades.
Teams of medical workers have been dispatched to five high schools and four middle schools this week to administer doses of an inactivated version of the H1N1 flu vaccine. The immunizations came on the heels of last week's mass vaccination rollout at exceptional centers.
The last time the Hillsborough County Health Department embarked on such a widespread effort was in the early 1990s during a measles outbreak, said Steve Huard, Health Department spokesman.
"We have never done a campaign of this magnitude," Huard said.
The Hillsborough County School District is processing "hundreds upon hundreds" of forms that parents have filled out, approving their children for the vaccine, said school district spokesman Stephen Hegarty.
At Freedom High School in New Tampa, so far more than 300 of the 2,100 students have turned in permission forms, Hegarty said. More could be coming in as the week goes on.
Among the students receiving shots at Freedom were the Seybold sisters — Taylor, 16, and Nicole, 15. A mutual friend was diagnosed with the H1N1 flu Sunday and will be out for days, Nicole said.
"My friend is going to miss school, work and activities," she said. "So I'm hoping that this shot works."
The H1N1 shots, or an activated version of the vaccine in nasal mist form, were administered by nurses under contract with the Hillsborough County Health Department.
In addition to some students at Freedom, those at King, Middleton, Spoto and East Bay high schools, and Liberty, Greco, Giunta and Eisenhower middle schools also were vaccinated. The Health Department hopes to have vaccination clinics at remaining middle and high schools in the near future.
Last week, the district conducted a telephone survey of 134,588 Hillsborough parents to gauge participation. More than 25,000 responded. About 55 percent, or 14,034, said they planned to vaccinate their children against swine flu; about 24 percent of families said they would not vaccinate, while 21 percent said they were undecided.
The response was a contributing factor in determining which schools got the first wave of vaccinations, school officials said.
Elementary students will be inoculated after school hours with a parent present beginning Nov. 2, depending on the availability of the vaccine, officials said.
Taylor and Nicole's mother, Wendy Seybold, said she was on the fence about whether to get her children inoculated. They have never gotten the regular flu vaccine. But her husband, John, gets the flu shot each year and, after consulting with a physician, he wanted their four children to get the vaccine.
"The shot wasn't as painful as I thought it would be," Nicole said after getting an injection in her arm. "I'm a little nervous about any possible side effects or risks, but everyone at school is coughing and getting sick, so I think the shot is worth it."
Dong-Phuong Nguyen can be reached at (813) 909-4613 or email@example.com.