Knox County FluMist program kicks off for younger children than ever

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- For the fourth year in a row, the Knox County school district is stepping up to keep your children from catching the flu and missing class, and this year, more students than ever will take part in Knox County's FluMist program.

Over the past three years, more than 31,000 flu vaccines have been given to school-aged children in Knox County, the results have been positive.

Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale says, "When other school systems have been forced to close - our school system has remained open."

4-year-old Reese Johnson got FluMist for the first time.

His mother, Jennifer Johnson, says, "I think it's a great option, if they have no medical contradictions, it's such a great alternative to a shot which most kids are very fearful of."

Reese is able to participate in the FluMist program this year because the FDA approved the intra-nasal vaccine to be given to children as young as two years old.

Jennifer says it's virtually pain-free, maybe just a little uncomfortable.

"It doesn't hurt, just a little bit of liquid that goes up on both sides of their nose, and they do great with it."

The Knox County Health Department says making younger children eligible for the vaccine is a benefit to the whole community.

Dr. Martha Buchanan with the health department says, "I really see participation in this program as kind of a community service. If you allow your child to get vaccinated, you're helping protect the community from influenza."

The free program is also expanding to head start students and daycare centers with more than 50 children.

Dr. Buchanan says, "So if we can keep those kids healthy, keep mom and dad at work, keep the kid at school, and keep the whole community healthy, it's a win-win for all of us."

For parents like Jennifer, it's well worth it.

"To keep him from getting the flu but also his grandparents, and other children in the daycares that he's around, we don't want them to get flu as well."

The program starts Monday Sept. 22 and runs through Oct. 17.

The second round of FluMist will be Dec 2 through Dec. 22 for students who missed the first day or have to get a second round if it's their first time.

Younger students can also get a free FluMist or flu shot at the Knox County Health Department at any time.

You can get more information HERE (PDF).

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