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Vaccine-Deniers Aside, Flagler Schools Seek Parental Consent for Broad Flu-Shot Campaign

| September 5, 2014

Up the nose. (Lance Fisher)

Up the nose. (Lance Fisher)

Like most infectious viruses, influenza, better known as the flu, evolves and mutates each year. During the last century, vaccines have kept it mostly in check. The challenge of this century is to make sure that as many people get vaccinated as possible, for the public good. That’s the position of the Centers for Disease Control. It’s also the position of the Flagler County Schools which has partnered with Healthy Schools, a for-profit private Florida healthcare and Medicare provider responsible for operating school-based vaccine clinics, as well as the Florida Department of Health in Flagler County, to provide children the means to receive cost-free flu vaccinations at all 13 Flagler public schools, including two charter schools.

For students who have insurance, their plans will cover the vaccinations. For those who don’t, Healthy Schools foots the bill, says Flagler County Schools director of Human Services, Katrina Townsend. Consent forms were distributed to students Thursday (Sept. 4). Vaccinations will be administered September 18.

It’s the second year that Flagler has enacted the program. Nearly identical programs exist in many other districts in the state. “All the other districts had done this before us. We didn’t come in until late last year,” Townsend said. “This year we were trying to get more of jump on the flu itself, by doing it earlier.”

Only about 10 percent of students participated last year, Townsend said.

Townsend acknowledges that there are some parents who are vehemently anti-vaccine. A common belief of individuals within the anti-vaccine movement is that there’s a link between vaccines and Autism. That belief has been categorically discredited. Yet it persists much as superstitions do, with potentially harmful effects to public health that the Centers for Disease Control have been battling: as the proportion of unvaccinated children rises, so does the risk of reintroducing any of a dozen diseases that have been all but eradicated thanks to vaccination, from polio to diphtheria to smallpox. The proportion of parents rejecting vaccination has been rising in recent years, and ranges between 5 and 8 percent, depending on the state—with higher rates in the South.

The Flagler school district isn’t battling parents. It’s merely giving them a choice. And this vaccine is just about the flu.

“The thing is you can’t give a student—nor would we want to give a student—a vaccine without a parent’s permission,” Townsend said, “so it’s all by parent permission slip and, if they don’t turn in one, they just don’t get the mist.” These days, vaccination mists which are sprayed up the nose are used more frequently than shots. However, if the student prefers the shot, they can still go that route. “The other thing is students who get the vaccine and who are not later plagued with the flu helps us at the school level because they have better attendance during that school season,” she says.

Countering a mist of unfounded fears for maximum reach.

Tony Boselli is the founder of Healthy Schools, which has locations in 27 counties around the state. Boselli, 42, originally from California, was the first ever draft pick for the Jacksonville Jaguars National Football team in 1995, when the team was a brand new franchise. He’s been in the area since. He was motivated to start Healthy Schools after talking with a friend about another company acting under a similar initiative in another state. “I thought that it would be a great business model that would be sustainable and would be a good public policy for stopping flu which is a major issue every year,” says Boselli.

According to the CDC, flu severity ranges year to year. A 30-year study, conducted between 1976 and 2006 shows United States fatality numbers per year as low as 3,000 and as high as 49,000. Each year, on average, approximately 200,000 people are hospitalized from seasonal- flu-related complications.

“It’s just a bad disease that is preventable,” Boselli says. “So by getting out and keeping kids healthy and then in turn keeping them in school, that in turn will help our education process. I thought it was a really neat idea and pursued it.”

Of all the issues out there, Boselli says it wasn’t because of any real personal connection that he got involved with the cause, though he does have experience. “I’ve had the flu, unfortunately. It’s the worst thing ever. I get vaccinated now because I want to make sure I never have it again.”

While Healthy Schools is a for-profit company, Boselli’s been involved with other non-profit children’s education initiatives before. They include the Jacksonville-based Boselli Foundation which provided financially struggling families with academic and athletic support.

The real service need, he says, comes from the fact that, in today’s chaotic realities, it’s not always so easy for families to get their children vaccinated. Both parents often work and it might be difficult to find time to run off to the doctor’s office.

When it comes to individuals who are anti-vaccine, Boselli says he respects where those people are coming from (many of whom are blamed, because of their opposition to vaccines, for the reemergence of whooping cough and other near-forgotten deadly diseases—but the science speaks for itself.

“The most dangerous thing we could do is not vaccinate people and when the flu starts spreading around and getting people sick and, unfortunately, there’ll be those getting hospitalized and those dying,” Boselli says. At the end of the day, he says, the vaccine stops the flu.

Patrick Johnson, director of the Florida Department of Health in Flagler County, uses the word partnership loosely when talking about the department’s relationship with Healthy Schools  and the schools.

“We supported the initiative because we were not able to vaccinate as many children as there are,” Johnson says. “We would love to do it ourselves. We just couldn’t match their resources.”

The program is not really about students who lack insurance. Most children have some form of health insurance, whether private or Medicaid, and are able to get either a shot or the mist from their healthcare provider. The Department of Health vaccinates any of the children in their care as well, says Johnson.

Patrick johnson flagler county health department administrator

Patrick Johnson (© FlaglerLive)

“The real positive here is the convenience of the parents getting a consent form and the child getting the shot, or I should say, the vaccination,” says Johnson.  “When there is an increase in influenza activity in a community, parents get their children the vaccine at that time. We encourage parents right now to get the vaccination early in the season. Influenza is the type of disease that can spread rapidly because of the airborne transmission and crowded conditions, which schools are crowded conditions.”

While it’s a benefit to schools and parents that this initiative will make it easier for students to get vaccinated, they only comprise half the risk pool. When it comes to parents and adults, Johnson says, “they need to get their flu shots whether they’re getting it at a drugstore or a pharmacy, or a grocery store pharmacy, or us.” However, the Department of Health doesn’t have its full supply in yet—they will be ready to administer vaccinations by the middle of the month, he says.

According to the CDC, it’s not possible to predict what the upcoming flu season will be like, as there are many variables that come into play each season—the apex of which usually hits between January and February, though there are emergences as early as October and as late as May.

With all the different strains out there, the seasonal flu vaccine is designed to protect against the top three or four potentially illness-inducing varieties for that season. In addition to hygienic, preventative measures, the CDC also recommends getting vaccinated as soon as the vaccine becomes available.

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31 Responses for “Vaccine-Deniers Aside, Flagler Schools Seek Parental Consent for Broad Flu-Shot Campaign”

  1. KB63 says:

    I would like to see the permisson slip that needs to be signed. Does it request the child’s medical insurance info? This is nothing but a company invading the school with this money making scheme. No cost to the child but the insurance companies & medicaid will pay their portion. Places having flu vaccinations are everywhere, they are everywhere because everyone wants in on the money. If it is such an awful threat to everyone, just make it free. It won’t surprise me at all if the schools make it mandatory soon “for the good of all children” – that way they can get a cut too.

    • Livesinpalmcoast says:

      I have seen this form as I have a child in the school system. I laughed when it came to the insurance part… Yes it asks who which insurance company you have, it actually has a list and you check which one. It asks for the group no. And it said if you do not have insurance you can have one based on availabity. So just because I have insurance they have to pay?? I don’t feel comfortable giving my information to strangers….

    • Livesinpalmcoast says:

      Oh, if they ever make it mandatory then my child would never stay there, I have my personal reasons why I will never give the flu shot…..

  2. buylocal says:

    I agree, big Pharm at it again.

    • Nancy N. says:

      Flu vaccine costs between $10-$20 per dose approximately. “Big Pharma” would be better off letting us all get sick so they can charge us for expensive retrovirals and antibiotics, inhalers, and other treatments for flu and complications. When they sell vaccines they are eradicating the viruses that create their most loyal repeat customers!

      You want to rage against Big Pharma? Vaccines aren’t the problem you should be focusing on. Try being outraged instead about things like the arthritis drugs my daughter takes. One IV bag she gets every month gets billed at $10,000! And that is just the cost of the one bag itself, not the nursing services to administer it!

  3. blooski says:

    It makes one feel smug and superior, I guess, to put ‘-denier’ on the end of someone else viewpoint. According the lastest figure the CDC themselves say the flu shot is only 56% effective, basically a coin toss, and they are all gung-ho flu shots. Here is a discussion of the issue:

  4. austin says:

    boohoo. vaccinate your kid.

  5. Nancy N. says:

    The level of anti-vaccine paranoia in these comments is stunning – and terrifying to me as the parent of an immune-suppressed child.

    My child has a suppressed immune system due to her treatment for her arthritis. A bug that another child would barely notice could be a serious threat to her. Flu season is no joke to us. Our entire family gets vaccinated ASAP when the vaccine is available every year. Her doctors insist on it to keep her safe.

    When you vaccinate your child, you aren’t just protecting your child. You are protecting everyone that your child comes in contact with that the child could infect if they got sick (and don’t say you will just isolate your sick child because you can infect people for at least a day before you know you are actually sick). Some of these people – the elderly, extremely young children, and people with medical conditions – cannot fight the flu like a healthy child or young adult can. What is for you a few miserable days could mean life or death for them if the illness progresses into pneumonia or other infections.

    There is NO credible evidence that vaccines cause harm – and loads of evidence that contagious diseases kill people in the absence of the use of vaccines. This shouldn’t even be up for debate to anyone educated person. This hysteria has to stop before more people die because of it.

    • Anonymous says:

      My husband contracted guillain barre syndrome as a result of a flu shot many years ago and spent 9 months in rehab. It is a very serious illness. None of my children nor any of my grandchildren have ever and never will take a flu shot. Parents need to be able to keep their kids home when they are sick instead of sending them off to school because they need to be at work or someplace else.

      • Nancy N. says:

        By the time your child displays symptoms of being sick, they’ve already been contagious and infecting other people for at least 24 hours. So unless you have the psychic ability to know that your child is going to wake up sick TOMORROW, there is no way to prevent sending your child to school in a contagious state – except to vaccinate them and prevent them from getting the illness entirely.

        While I feel for you about your husband getting guillain barre, it is extremely rare. Dying from the flu is not. Thousands, even tens of thousands, of people die from the flu and flu complications every year. Your personal experience just makes what is actually an incredibly rare complication seem very prevalent, when in fact someone you love is far more likely to die of flu and its complications than to be struck with GBS.

        Saying you won’t vaccinate because of risk of GBS is like saying you won’t fly because of the risk of a crash, and driving instead. You are actually much more at risk statistically in a car. It’s just that the risk of an air crash is an unfamiliar risk to our daily lives so it seems more dangerous than it actually is. Driving in a car, much more dangerous, is familiar, so we don’t perceive the danger.

      • livesinpalmcoast says:

        Not that anyone needs to know my reasons why I am so ANTI – FLU Vaccine, BUT it is because I too have had Gullian Barre Syndrome. Actually its 14 years ago today I came down with it….I will NEVER give my children or my husband the vaccine…I personally could never get it because of my history…

        I too was very sick just like your husband. I hope he is doing well now….

    • livesinpalmcoast says:

      Nancy N….please research your comments before you say something because there IS creditable evidence that can result from the vaccine….that is why on the form you have to fill out it asks you….Have you had a history of Guillian Barre Syndrome……

      • Nancy N. says:

        I never said there was NO risk of getting GBS. I just noted that statistically, the risk of getting GBS is much lower than of dying from the flu if you don’t get the shot. By getting the shot, you are taking on minutely small risk of complications in exchange for massively reducing your risk of dying from flu.

        We make this same trade-off of risk every time we do anything medical – take drugs, have a procedure, etc. Most people don’t think twice about it, because it makes sense. You take on a small risk to get a large benefit. Why some people get all illogical about the risk-benefit of vaccines I don’t understand. Why are they different?

        • Livesinpalmcoast says:

          If you live thru gbs or seen someone you will never understand…. I and my family have had the flu and would take the flu over GBS any day…..

          No one understands something until they live thru it….. It’s not nice telling someone it’s a slim risk so get it anyway….. It has happened to me and it was supposed to be a slim risk….to me it’s a HUGH risk….

          My mother said, Nancy go to medical school and learn all the facts….. She had to take care of me for years after I was sickened with Guillian Barre ….. Why not take a few minutes to read about it and understand how serious it is….you can die from it.

  6. LB says:

    Dr. Mercola is a quack and snake-oil salesman. He peddles alternative medication and controversial dietary supplements. Pseudo-science at best.

    From the CDC:

    “Is CDC’s mid-season (VE) estimate (56%) different than CDC’s previous early season VE estimate (62%) for the 2012-2013 seasonal vaccine?” –

    “While determining how well a flu vaccine works is challenging, in general, recent studies have supported the conclusion that flu vaccination benefits public health, especially when the flu vaccine is well matched to circulating flu viruses.” –

  7. Seminole Pride says:

    Flu shots should be mandatory, both in the work force and especially in our Schools. Those that do not get a Flu shot need not be in our Schools. We do not need an epidemic. Every parent is responsible for there child’s health.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think it is very scary when the gov’t starts to make flu shots mandatory. People have a right to decide what they put in their or their child’s body. They have already started making them mandatory in most hospitals. That is somewhat understandable because they are working with sick people. They also have a choice not to work in a hospital if they are not willing to receive the vaccine. But kids have to go to school by law. If it came to that point of mandatory flu vaccines and I was a parent, home schooling would be my choice. I have read what is in those shots…no thank you! For those who are worried about epidemics, go ahead and vaccinate your child and then you don’t have to worry about it. The point here is freedom of choice.

      • Nancy N. says:

        Telling people to “go ahead and vaccinate your child and then you don’t have to worry about it” demonstrates your complete lack of understanding about vaccines.

        First, some people – very young children, for example – cannot receive vaccines for certain illnesses. In others, the vaccines have limited effectiveness. Vaccines, to work, rely upon a proper response from the person’s immune system when they receive a vaccine. If the person’s immune system is compromised (like my daughter’s because of her medical treatment, or in elderly people), the vaccine will have limited or even no effectiveness. That is why it is imperative that EVERYONE get vaccinated, to eradicate illnesses from the community and create “herd immunity” that protects the weak among us.

        We do have freedom of choice in this country, but only to a point. Your freedom of choice stops where it threatens the life of someone else. Not getting vaccinated has implications for the health and safety of others. Therefore, it’s not just about you. It’s not a “personal choice” when you are endangering others with your choice. Unless you plan to quarantine your entire family in your house for the entire flu season, it’s not “freedom of choice” or “your right to decide”.

        • Anonymous says:

          I am sorry that your child has a compromised immune system. That must be very difficult with everything that goes around in schools. But parents also have the right to protect their child if they feel the vaccine is not good for them. The vaccine is a guessing game and there are many viruses it will not prevent. Even children and adults who are vaccinated can catch a milder form of the flu and still spread it. It is necessary for you to do what you believe is best to protect your child, and I pray your child doesn’t get sick. But that does not give you the right to force another parent to do something they feel in unsafe for their child. We can pick up the flu anywhere from Church to the grocery store.

          • Nancy N. says:

            “But parents also have the right to protect their child if they feel the vaccine is not good for them.”

            This isn’t about “belief” or “feelings”. This is about SCIENCE. There is no scientific evidence that shows vaccines are harmful, and volume upon volume of study showing their benefits.

            If your doctor told you that you had a serious illness and needed a specific treatment to cure it, would you tell him that you didn’t “believe” in that treatment and thought he was wrong? Or would you say, I know what is best for me and I know better than you and I will be fine without chemo, insulin, or whatever? No, you’d do what the doctor said. Vaccines have been tested and researched and developed with the same standards and techniques as other medical treatments. Why do so many people treat them as though they are somehow a belief system and not just another medicine that can benefit them?

            The best way to save lives is to prevent illnesses from happening in the first place. Why do so many people stubbornly refuse to “believe” in that concept, instead seeming to be determined to condemn our communities to a never-ending cycle of burying people who didn’t need to die? It’s downright barbaric, hubris at its finest (worst).

            • Anonymous says:

              Having a son who had a bad reaction to one of these “safe” vaccines gives me the right to chose not to put that in our bodies. If I were sick and a doctor told me I needed a certain treatment, I would do my homework before I just agreed to it. I understand why you feel the way you do and your reasons. But some people have had serious problems with these vaccines and should have the right to say no to them. Everybody has a different story and has to do what they believe is the best for their family.

  8. A.S.F. says:

    I don’t know if a parent can be forced to consent to any medical treatment they refuse to give their child (without a court order, anyway, and I don’t know whether this would meet that kind of standard for medical necessity.) However, if a parent refuses vaccination, they should be made to sign an agreement that the school will keep on file that states that they will be responsible for the consequences of that decision…Which include immediately picking up any child who shows symptoms of the flu that they might try to send to school sick and that they will take responsibility for the quarantine of said child at home until that child is cleared by a doctor or appropriate medical personnel.

    • Nancy N. says:

      Damage is already done at the point that they are showing symptoms. They’ve already been contagious for at least 24 hours at that point. So even if the school sends a child home immediately at the very first symptom, it’s too late to prevent them from infecting others.

  9. kb63 says:

    I have a daughter with no spleen & several medical issues and a husband with several medical issues. They both get a flu shot yearly under a doctor’s supervision. I have nothing against the flu shot. When it first came out it it was advertised that the flu hits the old, very young & sickly and those persons were advised to get the shot. No problem with that.

    Now, everyone needs the shot (or nasal spray), even all healthy children in the schools. The form states “if you do not have insurance you can have one based on availability”. In other words, if you have insurance & can afford it please step right up so we can make some money. But it may never be available if you can’t pay for it. There is also the concern that this is given with no medical background information. Just come on in & get the shot, yet we know nothing about your medical history.

    Again, if it is so important for these kids to get the flu shot, so be it, but make it available to everyone regardless if they have medical insurance or not. Stop charging. Don’t line your pockets while preaching & convincing people that is it an absolute must have or you are harming your fellow man because you got the flu.

    • Nancy N. says:

      Medical guidance on who should receive the shots has changed in recent years for a reason. You are right that until recently it was advised that only populations that were considered extremely vulnerable to death from flu complications – the elderly, sick, and small children – should receive the shot. The emergence of H1N1 flu changed all that. It started killing large numbers of people previously not considered at risk, specifically healthy young adults. This meant the entire population was essentially at high risk, leading to the change to advise the entire population to get vaccinated because no one could be considered “safe” from flu-related death any longer.

      It would be great if flu shots could be offered free to everyone. But who is going to pay for that? The money won’t materialize magically out of thin air – it has to come from somewhere! It has to come from insurance, or tax dollars, or private donations. The school vaccination efforts at least make it convenient for parents to get their kids vaccinated easily if they have insurance, and is a start on getting as many people as possible vaccinated. Fill out a form (which asks for health information) and it is done.

      You want to guarantee that everyone gets a free vaccination every year? There are countries where that happens, like Canada and the UK. They have single-payer healthcare systems.

  10. mellissa says:

    Healthy Schools is a joke. They even gave out the wrong phone number on the flier that went home. Plus they were at our schools this past Feb and already want to do it again. When I finally called the correct number I had to leave my question and call back info and the person that called me back was from a cell phone, not even from an actual business office.

    • Nancy N. says:

      The shot offered last February was the 2013-2014 flu season formulation which was offered somewhat late ( but while flu was still plenty active) due to lack of supply.

      The shot being offered now is the 2014-2015 flu season formulation. Apparently they were able to get vaccine stock for the program earlier this year which is great for the health of kids in the community!

  11. LM5678 says:

    Don’t drink the cool-aid. It is all about the money.

  12. Obama 2014 says:

    I can see asking for consent to give a flu shot since it is not really mandatory.

    People that get a flu shot still get the flu. Also it is nice to see Tony Boselli trying to keep kids healthy by giving everyone one place to get the shot if they want it and if you can’t afford it his company will try and provide it.

    But as usual, the punishment of the needy tin foil hat GIVE ME MORE-THAT’S MINE segment of our country has to try and ruin any attempt to give a the poor a chance.

    Get your children vaccinated to match the list below so you don’t kill anyone.

    Science is stronger and than your silly “values”.

  13. A.S.F. says:

    What I really hope for is that a vaccine is developed for the virus that is hospitalizing so many children in the Midwest right now. It appears that the virus is particularly dangerous for kids who have respiratory challenges, like Asthma. Parents with any plans to travel any time soon to the Midwest, beware!

    • Livesinpalmcoast says:

      It’s as close to us, it’s in GA! I don’t know if my child had it but she came down with a cold and started wheezing within 24 hours, we got her to a doctor who put her on breathing treatments… Scary stuff….

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