Maine youngsters getting H1N1 boosters

LEWISTON — There’s enough H1N1 vaccine now in Maine to allow schools to give young students their second booster shots.

Most Maine schools will offer boosters to students under age 10 in January, said the head of the Maine Center for Disease Control.

In Lewiston, schools were scheduled to offer the boosters in December, but rescheduled them to the week of Jan. 13, officials said. Delaying the boosters will not make children more vulnerable to the disease, “not at all,” said Dr. Dora Ann Mills, director of the Maine CDC.

Meanwhile more vaccine has made its way into Maine making it available to most anyone who wants it, including senior citizens, who have been as hard hit in Maine as children, Mills said Monday.

Since Dec. 4, Maine has received “a mass of the vaccine,” Mills said. “Local supplies vary, but that will even out. If the supply holds up there should be plenty of vaccine for anyone who wants it.”

To find out where you can get vaccinated from the seasonal flu and the H1N1 flu, call 211, call your health care provider, or go to www.maineflu.gov

The disease seems to have stabilized, with the number of children hospitalized from H1N1 down. Two weeks ago, there were 50 children hospitalized, “some on ventilators,” Mills said. As of last week 11 children were hospitalized. The number of H1N1 deaths, 17, has not grown in several weeks, Mills said. She credits that to “the vaccine taking hold.”

Nationally the disease has hit the young the hardest, but in Maine “half of our deaths are seniors.” National data shows the old are not at risk. “But our statistics go against the national statistics,” Mills said, adding unlike last month, no seniors will be turned away at clinics.

Lewiston schools initially planned to offer the booster in December before the Christmas vacation. “We decided to wait until we had plenty of injectable” vaccine and would only have to hold one clinic in each school, Lewiston school nurse Cathy Liguori said Monday.

Lewiston schools had plenty of nasal spray but not enough shots, she said.

About 1,000 Lewiston students under age 10 will get the booster, Liguori said. Staff will also be get the vaccine, she added.

Doctors recommend children under the age of 10 get the H1N1 vaccine, followed by a booster 28 days or more after. The 28 days is the minimum time the booster should be given, Mills said, explaining younger children are less able to build up as good immunity from the first shot as older children, which is why a second is advised.

“They get a good immune response after one dose,” about 76 percent get a sufficient response. “It just gets better after the second,” bringing the immunity rate to 96 percent, Mills said.

Waiting three months for the booster is no problem, Mills said. Her daughter had her vaccine in October and will get her booster in January. “I’m not worried,” Mills said. “There’s no pressing need to have the booster.”


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