Flu vaccination distribution aimed at protecting young

In a smooth-as-glass public health operation Friday between 3 and 7 p.m. in the Senior Center gym, 350 kids and young adults received H1N1 (also known as swine flu) flu vaccine via squirts up nostrils.

As school nurses asked a little boy or girl to tilt his or her head back for the squirt up nostrils, eyes widened and anticipation appeared intense.

A few children whimpered before, during and after the process, but for the most part, kids reacted to the squirt in the nostrils by saying, among other things:

"I didn't feel a thing."

"It felt wet."

"It tickled."

"I didn't taste anything."

"It felt like water."

"It felt funny."

"It felt runny."

The Manchester brothers -- Logan, 3, and Maxwell, 2 -- dressed in cowboy outfits (on their way to a Halloween party) appeared nonchalant after school nurse LeAnne Power administered their dose of the LAIV nasal spray.

When asked how it felt, the two lifted and dropped their shoulders in unison, appearing to signify "it was nothin'."

LAIV nasal spray? Translation: Live, Attenuated Intranasal Vaccine. No needles -- usual in vaccinating children against diseases such as mumps, measles and diptheria.

The intranasal vaccination is "ouchless" -- to borrow a word from advertising about some stuff found in first-aid kits.

Shiny stars were at the ready when each child's vaccination was over.

The boys and girls selected one from a sheet of red, green, blue, gold stars. Each child was allowed to pick one as a reward for volunteering to get the vaccine.

Some gave the special star to mom or dad. Others gleefully stuck the reward on their shirts, sweaters, cheeks, foreheads, ears or the back of hands.

All appeared proud to proclaim to the world that they were this day H1N1 vaccine pioneers in the town of Fairfield.

In addition to a star, the town of Fairfield Health Department issued an "Influenza Vaccination Record" to each child (or adult). It contained the name of the maker of the 2009 H1N1 dose being administered and the lot number, with the date Oct. 23.

On the front, the vaccine recipient's name and birth date were to be inscribed -- presumably by mom or dad.

The flu shot card had pasted on it a white tape that said: "Reminder: Children under 10 require a second dose after four weeks. Check the town Web site (fairfieldct.org )or call your provider for availability."

On the back, the card said (in English and Spanish): "Attention: Keep your vaccination record for at least one year after your last vaccination. "

Those who have had the vaccinatino and fear they might be having and adverse reaction are encouraged to:

1. Contact a doctor or a local health department.

2. Tell a doctor what happened.

3. Show the doctor this vaccination record.

4. You or your doctor should report the reaction to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) at (800) 822-7967 or visit http://vaershhs.gov.

Friday's mass vaccination operation was triggered when the Connecticut Department of Public Health shipped 700 doses of the free vaccine to the town of Fairfield in the form of nasal spray. (Some was to be administered to Easton children and eligible adults.)

Prior to the shipment to the Health Department the only other batches of vaccine in town went to pediatricians who had ordered it in advance for their patients and obstetricians/gynecologists who ordered for their patients.

Pregnant women are in the high priority group needing vaccinations against the H1N1 influenza. The vaccine for the pregnant is packaged as an injection and calls for administration via needle. The nasal spray vaccine is not to be administered to the expectant mothers..

Dispensing the massive lot of nasal spray vaccine required the Fairfield Health Department to set in motion vaccination plans that have been fine-tuned over months. That is, to hear Health Director Sands Cleary tell it.

The department has been on pins and needles for weeks, waiting for the shipment of vaccine from the state Health Department, conduit for free vaccination supplies from the federal government.

Staging included setting up individual appointments after requests were screened by phone to make certain those eager for vaccinations met criteria set up by federal authorities running the H1N1 vaccination campaign.

Nine phone lines were open and manned last Tuesday in the first floor office of the Health Department at Sullivan Hall. Three to four lines were opened and manned on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.

As a result of the individual appointments, there was no bunching up at doors, no lines in the vaccinating arena on Friday.

"We staggered the appointments so there were fewer than 100 coming in per hour," Cleary said.

The same system is taking place today when the Fairfield Health Department H1N1 vaccination team travels to Easton to administer the H1N1 nasal spray vaccine to eligible children and adults there in a clinical setting.

Fairfield First Selectman Ken Flatto Friday visited the vaccination arena, talked with the kids and their parents -- congratulating them for taking part in the historic first big H1N1 flu vaccination operation.

During an interview he boosted the Fairfield Health Department for its "outstanding planning and execution of the massive vaccination operation."

He also congratulated parents for making it possible for their kids to be protected against the H1N1 influenza,.

"We have been encouraging people to get the seasonal flu shot and the H1N1 shot to protect themselves, their family members, co-workers and the community at large," he said.

The nasal spray vaccine is limited to priority groups set up by the Centers for Disease control (CDC).. These group include healthy people who:

"� Are from 2 to 49 years of age.

"� Adults who live with or care for infants younger than 6 months of age.

"� Are health care or emergency medical personnel.

Leading up to the administration of the limited supply of H1N1 vaccine were phone interviews with interested parties who called the Fairfield Flu Line at 256-3082.

Nine lines were in operation Tuesday and five on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Cleary told the Fairfield Citizen.

"Everyone scheduled for the vaccine had an appointment," he said, "so there were no long lines or bunching up at any time."

Among those praising Fairfield's big vaccination clinic Friday was Broadway actor Sam Maupin who watched his son Oliver, 11, getting the nasal spray vaccine.

"This is outstanding of the town of Fairfield to undertake this effort to help protect the young against the swine flu," Maupin said.

He noted that Fairfielders "are lucky its government is alert about the swine flu threat and out front in dealing with it."

Among the youngest in the vaccination arena Friday was 5-month old Benjamin Cogen.

He was accompanied by his parents, Micah and Ramsay.

As the care-givers to a baby under 6 months of age, each parent was eligible to get a dose of the H1N1 nasal spray.

Not a peep was heard from young Ben while mom and then dad were vaccinated.

"We're doing this to keep him safe," Micah Cogen said.