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Flu Vaccination Requests Flood Public Health Centers

Posted November. 06, 2009 07:46,   


Kwon Yeong-hyeon, the head of a public health center in Seoul’s southern district of Seocho, is afraid of getting calls at his office because school officials keep asking for swift vaccinations against the H1N1 influenza virus for students.

Elementary school principals are also sending official documents to him for the same reason. “I have a headache because of such requests,” he said.

○ Barrage of requests for early vaccinations

Beginning with students at special purpose schools, public health centers nationwide will vaccinate public school students from Wednesday. Elementary school students are first, followed by those in middle and high schools.

With tens of schools in one district, the time gap between the first and last schools vaccinated will be between one and three weeks. Because of this, schools are scrambling to get their students vaccinated first.

A public health center in Seoul’s Guro district has 52 public schools under its jurisdiction. Most schools, however, asked for vaccinations on the first or second day. A center official said, “We are caught between a rock and a hard place because every school wants to have their students inoculated first.”

Other public centers nationwide are in the same situation. A health official in Daejeon said, “We’re asking for understanding from schools that asked for swift vaccinations one by one.”

Schools are employing a number of methods in trying to get vaccinated first. Certain elementary schools in Seoul’s affluent Gangnam district had ward councilors call the head of their public health center.

An official of a health center in Seoul’s Gwangjin district said, “One school said it needed vaccinations earlier than others claiming that it was at higher risk due to the large student body. Another school said it needed early vaccinations since many students lack attention from their parents.”

○ No unified criteria for vaccination orders

Confusion is intensifying, however, due to a lack of common standards for the order of priority. Normally, public health centers decide on who is vaccinated first in consultation with educational offices. No such rules exist at certain centers, however.

The health center in Geumcheon, Gyeonggi Province, said, “We are discussing where we should go first.”

The one in Seoul’s Gwanak district said no standard has been set for vaccinations.

The situation at health centers in South Gyeongsang Province is no different. A public health official in the region said, “We never expected to be in such a situation.”

Each health center has a different order of priority. Guro health center in Seoul has set priority based on the number of confirmed patients and Gwangjin health center is using the incidence of the infection.

Seongdong health center in Seoul will first vaccinate schools near big hospitals for swift response in case of emergency. Seocho health center will use an index measuring flu risks.

Health care centers in North Jeolla Province will give vaccinations to schools that have finished filling out preliminary medical exam sheets and parental consent forms. Gumi, North Gyeongsang Province, will give vaccinations in Korean alphabetical order.

Many parents are complaining about the order of vaccination, however. A Seocho health official said, “If we inform parents of the order, they became angry and said ‘Who decided such an order?’”

One official at Dongdaemun health center in Seoul said, “We’ve randomly chosen schools because the government has given no criteria.”

Health authorities said, however, that uniform standards cannot be set. Goh Un-yeong, head of the infectious disease control division at the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, “The situations in provinces are different, so we cannot set uniform standards.”

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