Anna Johnson of Starkville, a student in the Mississippi University for Women School of Nursing, inoculates Rashaud Terry, 15, against the H1N1 flu virus, at New Hope High School, Wednesday. Holding his hand is classmate Katelyn Price, 16. The MUW student nurses are experienced in giving shots. A handful of Caledonia students reported reactions to the vaccine, but hundreds of other students in the area were vaccinated without incident. Photo by: Kelly Tippett
Jason Browne & Allen Baswell
November 5, 2009 10:12:00 AM
Ashley O''Mary will be home from school through Friday, a precaution her guardian is taking after O''Mary had a reaction to the H1N1 vaccine she was administered at Caledonia High School, Wednesday.
"She did not have as bad a reaction to the vaccine as some did," said Joyce Flowers, O''Mary''s guardian, from the emergency room at Baptist memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle, Wednesday afternoon. "She has been given some Benadryl, and the doctor has given her some prescriptions to take."
Sabrina Shelton''s reaction was more severe.
"Sabrina had a high fever and shortness of breath," said Shelton''s mother, Bernice. "She was treated for hives and complained of itching from a rash."
O''Mary and Shelton are two of nine Caledonia High students who suffered reactions to the H1N1 vaccine administered Wednesday.
All but one of the students had been treated and released from Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle Wednesday evening. The status of the hospitalized student was unknown Thursday morning. And at least one of the students previously released from BMH-GT returned to the hospital Wednesday night, experiencing further complications.
Two students complained of shortness of breath just after receiving the vaccine while the others may have experienced what Mississippi State Department of Health District 6 Health Officer Dr. Rebecca "Tree" James referred to as "sympathy reactions" or discomfort with no evidence of an allergic reaction.
The hospitalized student was taken to Baptist by a relative after leaving school, said Lowndes County School District Superintendent Mike Halford. The rest were transported by ambulance directly from school.
"The reactions were serious enough to the point we thought we needed medical attention. In no way did we overreact," said Halford. "We thought we might have got a bad batch of vaccine."
The students began to show symptoms of a reaction within 15 minutes of the last high school student receiving the vaccination, which was administered by Mississippi University for Women School of Nursing clinical students through a partnership with MSDH.
Caledonia elementary and middle school students were scheduled to receive the vaccination Wednesday but, acting on the advice of MSDH officials, Halford postponed those vaccinations until a later date.
More than 400 New Hope middle and elementary school students also received the vaccinations Wednesday with no reported problems as did students at four Columbus city schools. MUW nursing students also administered those vaccines.
MSDH reported one other student has suffered a similar reaction among 10,000 vaccinated across the state.
Slight reactions are common, James noted.
"With any vaccine there''s the possibility of allergic reactions like hives. Thirty to 40 percent of people (in a test group) had reactions like swelling at the injection site, headache or just felt bad. There were no actual hives in the test group," she said.
According to information provided to parents with vaccination consent letters, risks from the inactivated H1N1 vaccine are similar to those from the seasonal flu vaccine: soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling at the injection site, fainting, headache, muscle aches, fever or nausea. Life-threatening reactions to vaccines are rare.
Stress can play a major role in bringing on minor reactions, said James.
"Hopefully this will open some eyes to the situation that could present itself (at other schools)," said Halford. "They need to make plans."
Allergic reactions are typically treated with Benadryl, said James, but stronger reactions may require an Epinephrine shot. School nurses keep both on hand.
Lowndes County schools and Columbus schools will proceed with the vaccinations as planned.
West Lowndes High School will receive the vaccination Nov. 11. West Lowndes Middle and Elementary schools will receive the shots the following week.
New Hope Elementary School will receive its vaccinations Dec. 8.
Caledonia parents will be asked to sign permission slips again once a new vaccination date is agreed upon by the LCSD and MSDH.
Oktibbeha County school officials Monday made plans to partner with MSDH to offer H1N1 vaccines to its students.
Starkville school officials Tuesday gave their consent for MSHD to offer H1N1 immunizations during the first week of December.
MSDH officials making the rounds at local school districts have not met with West Point School District''s board of trustees to propose making the vaccine available at its schools.
Though MSDH and its partners, the H1N1 vaccine is being offered free of charge to all public and private school-aged children, with approval from school officials and parental consent.
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