When it comes to the swine flu vaccine in Pierce County, some school districts are more equal than others.
Below, University Place Superintendent Patti Banks cries foul about the way county health officials allocated scarce vaccine doses to clinics at six high schools, not including Curtis High School. (The “Mike and Debbie” refer to the reporters who wrote the story on the school clinics.)
Mike and Debbie – I want to share with you my concerns about the communication and decisions of the health department with regard to the H1N1 vaccination clinics featured in your story today. We heard of these clinics (which, as your story indicates, the health department has been “closed mouthed” about) only last week.
We immediately contacted the health department for details, since we’ve been working hard to keep our schools and community informed, and had promised that we would let them know when and if vaccination opportunities would be available.
We had also specifically communicated to the health department that we would like to have a vaccination clinic at Curtis High School. The health department (Charron) promised to stay in contact with us and let us know when they would be doing this. This did not occur; last week, Charron at the health department told John Sander, Director of Special Services in UPSD, that she was sorry for not keeping in touch with him.
Yesterday I made multiple calls to the health department to ask about the scheduled clinics: Why was UPSD not provided an opportunity to be a vaccination site? I also indicated that I was sending a letter to our families and wanted to provide them information about the clinics. We had a very difficult time getting a return call from the health department; ultimately, my assistant called the PR person in Puyallup, who told her they were instructed not to advertise the clinic, that it was for Puyallup students only.
I asked, if there’s no clinic in UPSD, then where do UPSD school children go? I finally received a return call from Eileen Finnegan at the health department; I asked her about the clinics and she said, yes, they were for the students in the ‘selected’ school districts. I said that makes no sense; why would students in UP not be eligible for vaccination – how was this decision made? She told me every district “had the opportunity” to volunteer to host a vaccination site. I told her we had definitely not had this opportunity; we would certainly have wanted to provide this service to our families.
I also indicated I definitely planned to notify families in UPSD about the clinics., especially if these might be the only opportunities for our students. I also told her that UPSD has a very high concentration of multi-family residences (at one time, the highest concentration of them in Pierce County) and that that would seem like an important consideration for distribution of the vaccine.
She said she would have to “ask the nurses” about that. She called me back some time later and said, “yes, you’re right, every school was not given the opportunity to hold a clinic.”
I asked again how this decision was made? She said she didn’t know, she’d have to ask the nurses and get back to me and maybe if there was enough vaccine down the road we could get a date to have a clinic.
I do not understand the logic or decision-making process whereby some school districts were selected for vaccination for their students, and then efforts were made to be ‘closed mouthed” about it … in today’s paper Joby Winans is quoted as saying “this is not for everyone; the emphasis is on students in that school district.”
Certainly the residents of my school district will want to know how this all was determined.
Sincerely, Patti Banks, Superintendent, UPSD.