Trying not to be pigheaded

October 23, 2009 at 9:52 am 1 comment

They’re giving out vaccinations against the H1N1 virus, but you can only get them if you’re in one of the following categories:

  • pregnant women
  • caregivers/contacts for infants younger than 6 months
  • healthcare/EMS personnel
  • people 6 months through 24 years old
  • people with health conditions that exacerbate complications from flu

My students, all of whom are between the ages of 15 and 18, are eligible to receive the virus.

My school is in Rural School District. I live in Urban School District, about half an hour’s drive (under normal traffic situations) from my school. Here’s a map to help you visualize the geography:


I don’t know who funded it, but free H1N1 vaccination clinics were held at every school in the Urban and Suburban Districts this past week. Their intent was to vaccinate every student. (Unfortunately, they ran out of vaccines.) They did not send vaccines to the Rural School District, or to any of the other districts except the USD and SSD. I guess it’s okay if the RSD kids get swine flu?

Meanwhile, some of these smaller districts are reeling. I know someone whose school is having a 22% absentee rate, and I’ve heard numbers up to 30%. One district was completely shut down because over half of their teachers were out sick.

Wait – teachers?

Okay, obviously, some teachers are pregnant, live with infants, are under the age of 25, or have special health considerations. But there’s an awful lot of us who don’t fall under those categories.

In any given week – assuming I don’t ever leave my classroom – I directly interact with 170 students. That’s 170 kids that I could infect with H1N1, and 170 kids who could infect me. Each of those students has eight classes, and each class has between 20-40 students in it (except for ensemble/PE classes, which are larger). If I get H1N1, I could conceivably take down a very large portion of the school, just by infecting students who would pass it on to their classmates.

We’ve already had a great deal of absenteeism due to flu and, reportedly, swine flu – including some of my students. I guess that means I’ve already been exposed, to some degree.

We’re one of 41 states listed as having “wide-spread influenza activity.” At least seven people in our state (not an insignificant number compared to our relatively small population) have died as a result of H1N1.

I know several teachers who have already missed a week or more of school due to flu or H1N1 this year. The cost of teacher absenteeism is significant – not only does it cost the district money to hire a substitute, but students lose valuable instructional time. Even the best substitute isn’t the regular teacher and can’t teach in the exact same way. On top of that, schools receive their yearly budgets based on how many kids are sitting in seats during the first six weeks of school. Absenteeism due to illness has been so high this year that several school districts are facing catastrophic budget cuts.

Come ON, people. How can teachers not be a recommended group for H1N1 vaccines? We work with the highest risk group there is. I’m lucky; my room has windows and ventilation and room to move and breathe. Last year, I worked in a petri dish: completely sealed, too small, no air circulation, very rarely cleaned with real chemicals.

This isn’t a very well-organized post, but I’m aggravated and wanted to write about it. How are they handling vaccinations in your area? What do you think about distributing free vaccines to the wealthier, more prominent districts but not the small-town and rural districts? Do you think teachers ought to be in the target group?


Entry filed under: MISCELLANEOUS.

Multitasking Much? Awful

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Stixen  |  October 26, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    I think teachers need to be in a target group along with medical professionals. NO ONE ELSE is in contact with SO MANY of the population that the disease hits the hardest.

    Perhaps it’s because of where we are, but my mom and I were both appalled to hear that not only are you unable to get the h1n1 vaccination, you can’t even get the pneumonia shot.

    I wish I’d known in enough time to fly you here for a long overdue visit

    and a shot :hugs:


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The Bee’s Knees

This is the teaching journal of a student first-year second-year THIRD-YEAR (!!!) English teacher. I am writing this blog as a reflection for myself, a way to keep friends and family updated, and a sharing-ground between other educators online. I love comments!

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