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updated: 1/8/2010 8:01 AM

District 214 to offer H1N1 vaccinations to all students

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District 214 officials will offer H1N1 vaccinations to all students and staff next month.

The vaccinations will be available at the six district high schools and three alternative schools on Feb. 4, school board members were told on Thursday.

"Students won't be required to participate, and those who do must get parental approval first," Superintendent David Schuler said at the meeting.

The Cook County Department of Public Health will provide the free vaccinations, Schuler said.

Each high school will get about 2,200 vaccinations and typically about 65 percent of high school students will want to participate, said District 214 spokeswoman Venetia Miles.

The vaccinations will given on the morning of Feb. 4 because it's a late arrival day so students who participate won't miss and class time. Students will bring their parental consent form with them on that day and be able to get either the H1N1 shot or nasal spray, Miles said.

In October, fears were rampant that the public would be in for a deadly, massive outbreak because the H1N1 vaccine was so difficult to get. By December, those fears were calmed as the vaccine became more plentiful and the H1N1 virus was not as deadly as first feared.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends the vaccination, especially for those at high risk of complications - pregnant women, caregivers of children under 6 months, people who are 6 months to 24 years, health care and emergency workers, people with chronic illnesses.

At the same time, some experts think most Americans already have been exposed to the flu and picked up immunity to the virus without experiencing any symptoms. But no widespread testing for antibodies has been done to confirm this suspicion.

It depends also on whether the H1N1 strain rearranges or mingles with another virus in some way that produces more severe illness.

Many neighboring school districts are also offering H1N1 shots to their students, according to a District 214 memo.