News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 11, 2012

Chickenpox clinic totals fall short of goal

Brian Boyce
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Community health officials kept the gym doors open Saturday, administering free shots to local school children and staff.

Joni Wise, Vigo County Health Department administrator, said Saturday about 300 chickenpox vaccines were given to students and staff of the Vigo County School Corp. as part of a mass clinic. Friday, 394 shots were given. Those totals fell short of the goal hoped for, she said.

“Attendance was down. It didn’t meet the expectation or the need to have children vaccinated against chickenpox,” she said just before the 3 p.m. close.

A coalition of health care workers joined forces inside the gym at Terre Haute South Vigo High School between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. County Health Commissioner Enrico Garcia declared chickenpox to be in outbreak status last week. Beginning Tuesday, all school corporation staff born after 1980, and any student not optimally immunized, will be excluded from the facilities 21 days from the last documented case at school per state Department of Health regulations.

Wise said her department used census data to determine potential need and came prepared to dispense up to 5,000 doses.

“We had over half a million dollars worth of vaccine here,” she said, adding no more mass clinics are planned for the remainder of the year. Students and staff not optimally immunized need to check with their doctor, she said.

Optimal immunization means if an individual has had one dose, they need a second. If they haven’t been immunized, they need at least one, she explained.

Chickenpox is a vaccine-preventable disease and should be taken seriously, Wise pointed out.

Most people wouldn’t dismiss the need for measles or mumps vaccinations, nor should they simply ignore chickenpox, she said.

Saturday’s participants spanned a wide range of demographics, from small children to adults. Student nurses from Indiana State University and Ivy Tech Community College participated, as well as volunteers from emergency management agencies and the local business community.

Wise credited the collaborative effort as very efficient with minimal wait times for those receiving vaccines.

Jennifer Lucas from the Indiana State Department of Health, likewise said the multiple agencies all worked well together, from school personnel to volunteers.

“Overall, I think the clinic went very well,” she said.

Vigo County Schools official Mic Newport credited the school nurses as well as the numerous volunteers who participated. The schools have no choice but to comply with the state directive regarding potential exclusion of those refusing to get vaccines, he said.

Last week, the school district anticipated up to 1,000 students who were under-vaccinated or not vaccinated at all, as well as 276 staff. Newport pointed out many of them could have already been vaccinated at their family doctor by now though.

“And hopefully they’ll all be OK to return to school and work,” he said of Tuesday’s deadline.

ISU nursing student Bailey Luce was among those participating in the mass clinic. As a senior, she’d administered a few vaccines at past programs, but Saturday gave her the chance to perform about 30.

“I thought it was a very good experience,” she said. “I felt like I was really helping the community.”

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or brian.boyce@tribstar.com.