Vigo County health officials are preparing for two chickenpox immunization clinics that could bring thousands of students, young children and some school district staff to the Terre Haute South Vigo High School gym Friday and Saturday.
Over two days, the Vigo County Health Department could immunize as many as 6,000 students, young children and school staff, said Joni Wise, health department administrator.
On Friday, health commissioner Enrico Garcia declared a chickenpox outbreak in Vigo County, which has had 57 known cases in recent weeks. That is considered to be “at a rate clearly in excess of what is normally expected,” according to health officials.
In response, the health department and school district will conduct free shot clinics at Terre Haute South Vigo High School on Friday and Saturday. The clinics will be conducted in the school’s gymnasium with the entrance doors facing the south side parking lot.
Friday’s clinic, from 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m., is just for Vigo County School Corp. students and staff assessed
as needing to be “optimally immunized” for chickenpox.
It is not open to the public.
Saturday’s clinic, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., is open to school district students and staff and any Vigo County child older than one year and younger than six who still need to be optimally immunized against chickenpox. This includes children in pre-k and daycare.
Saturday’s clinic is also for those enrolled in parochial and private schools and those who are home-schooled, said Joni Wise, health department administrator.
According to Census data, there are about 5,000 children in Vigo County under the age of 6 and older than 1 year.
The child’s current immunization record is required the day of the clinic. Those who receive shots must live in Vigo County.
Several organizations will assist with the shot clinics and security will be provided, Wise said.
Ray Azar, Vigo County School Corp. director of student services, said packets of information will be sent home to families of children who need to be immunized. As many as 1,000 VCSC students have been identified as under-vaccinated or not vaccinated at all, he said. Those numbers could go down, if they have records showing they’ve been immunized or had chickenpox.
Most students already have the required single dose for school immunization requirements, but need a second dose due to the outbreak. Many of the students affected are in grades 3, 4 and 5. When they entered school, they were required to have only one chickenpox vaccine, but the law has changed and children now entering school must have two vaccinations, he said.
Because of the outbreak, those students in grades 3, 4 and 5 must now have the second vaccination, he said. “We have to comply with the directives of the Department of Health,” he said.
School staff affected are those born after 1980, Azar said. VCSC substitute teachers as well as student teachers born after 1980 also must be immunized or produce records showing they’ve been immunized or had chickenpox, he said.
“This [clinic] will be the only chance for most students to get that vaccination at no charge and come into compliance with the board of health,” Azar said.
As of Tuesday, Nov. 13, those students and staff who lack immunizations, or records that they’ve been immunized or had the disease, will be excluded from school for 21 days from the last documented case at that school, Azar said. Vigo County schools are out Monday for the Veterans Day holiday.
The district recommends that parents accompany elementary children to the shot clinic Friday, Azar said.
Middle and high school students will be able to ride a school bus to South, but they will need parental permission, and forms are being sent home.
The mass immunization clinics involve a lot of logistics and “it’s a lot of work on the part of school nursing staff,” Azar said.
The clinic site has been changed from Sarah Scott to South Vigo High School.
On Friday, officials reported that in 2009, there were 22 cases of chickenpox in Vigo County; in 2010, four cases; 2011, one case; and this year, 57 cases.
Azar said those who have questions can contact the health department at 812-462-3428 or Vigo County School Corp. school nurses at 812-462-4465.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or email@example.com.