Knox County to Serve as National Model for Flu Immunizations

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Knoxville (WVLT) - Knox County Schools have been selected as the only district in the country for a flu project, health officials say has the potential to change vaccination policy nationwide.

You'll recall Knox County offered free FluMist vaccinations to every public school student last year.

And because of its high vaccination rates last year, FluMist manufacturer MedImmune has selected Knox County as a national model this year.

The goal, vaccinate 70% of Knox County children age 5 to 19 against flu.

Ambitious, considering about 45% were vaccinated last year and the reason health officials are beginning a campaign, educating parents about FluMist, its safety and efficacy.

"And if you look at the tip, you can see that there's no needle, and it's almost like a nasal spray, you just squirt the plunger up, and a mist come out in one side of the nostril and you put it in on the second side of the nostril and squirt it up and another mist comes out... and that's it," explains Dr. Martha Buchanan, Knox County Public Health Officer.

Austin East Magnet High School student Shy Marsh was the first to get vaccinated while we were there.

She says receiving the FluMist was painless. "It didn't feel like nothing. Went up cold and tasted sweet, like honey."

Doctor Buchanan says flu usually enters a community through children, who are known to be the primary transmitters.

She says the more children that get vaccinated, the better protected the East Tennessee community will be.

"We are making a shift. Let's vaccinate the school age kids -- they don't get the flu, they don't take it home, they don't take it to church, they don't give it to the community. And that's what we're a pilot for," says Dr. Buchanan.

Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale says getting your children vaccinated at school will not only save you the cost of a doctor's visit, but also missed school days, and in turn your time away from work.

"Last year, we had an opportunity to vaccinate quite a few kids and we saw a very positive impact. Not only were our children healthier, adults were healthier, as well," says Mayor Ragsdale.

FluMist clinics will take place September 18th through October 13th.

New this year, private school and home school students will also be eligible to receive FluMist free of charge.

Parents of home school students will receive information by mail.

Otherwise, a consent form will be sent home with your child, which you must sign and return, in order for your child to receive the vaccine.