HIGHLAND, AR (KAIT) - The Highland, West Memphis and Forrest City School Districts were among the first in the Region 8 viewing area to give flu shots to students and teachers. According to the Arkansas Department of Health, nearly 1,000 doses of seasonal and H1N1 vaccines were given to the Sharp County school.
"Some of them are scared to get a shot in front of other kids. They're afraid that they're going to cry, even in high school. They're afraid that if they get a shot, then some of the other kids may make fun of them," said Nurse Nancy French.
French said there are 1,600 students within the Highland School District. The elementary school vaccinated 52% of its entire student population. The high school immunized 65%.
"I've gotten several phone calls and letters from parents. Some of them are scared of the H1N1. They're scared more of the seasonal flu mist or the H1N1 flu mist," said French.
French said she was happy with the turnout for the flu shots. The school was given parental consent to issue the shots to those who participated.
"We've got probably 10% less of the parents are having the students take both vaccines than just the seasonal flu," said French. "Once they have the vaccine, it's two weeks before they're fully protected against the seasonal flu that they have. The H1N1, the timeline is a little longer. Somewhere between two weeks to four weeks before they're fully protected from the swine flu."
Principal Don Carithers at Highland High School told Region 8 News 85 students were absent on Monday. He said the school averaged an absentee rate of 30 per day.
"We're running close to 100, a little less than 100 students a day who are coming in with the flu symptoms or have had the flu symptoms and are gone for an extended period of time," said Carithers.
Carithers said the school is hoping to keep children healthy so that it will perform well on end-of-year testing and Benchmark exams.
"It is a large number of students and it makes it difficult for teachers and students alike to stay caught up," said Carithers. "It makes it very difficult for them. Especially with the high stakes testing that comes at the end of the year. We want to have them as prepared as we can and if they're not here, it's very hard to prepare them."
The Sharp County Health Unit immunized the student body. The Cherokee Village Lion's Club helped keep students from acting up.
"The flu shots are a small needle. The vaccine is not very thick, so it'll sting a little bit but not bad," said French. "We have some students that get nervous and then they pass out, but that's a little bit of a concern."
"We're not trying to force students into getting the shots at all, but we have had some parents who are concerned about it and rightly so," said Carithers. "We've also had many parents who have voiced praises also. You know, thank you for providing this to our students."
To find out when your school's flu shot clinic will be offered, click here.
"It just helps protect them so we can keep our students in school. We can keep the educational process going," said French.