The last time it happened, it was smallpox and polio in the 1960s and 70s.  Now, decades later, the public health system is back--the schools are giving mass inoculations—this time because of the H1N1.

Six Goshen College students in the Community Health nursing course have had the opportunity to be a part of this history-in-the-making, as they do their clinicals with the local health department, schools and with agencies that work with vulnerable populations.

As a part of the course, these nursing students are required to spend some time at the Elkhart County Health Department.  This fall, the health department asked the nursing students to be prepared to go out to school clinics; the department needed all available personnel to help distribute and administer the H1N1 vaccine.

All six students have had the opportunity be at least one school giving H1N1 vaccines, and several students have been to more than one school.  In the past two weeks, the students have given at least 700 vaccines at Goshen Middle School, 750 at Goshen High School and 900 at Memorial High School.  They have also given vaccines at the junior and senior high schools in Fairfield and Jimtown.

According to Sherry Wenger, Associate Professor of Nursing, they were at the schools for less than three hours, averaging about 400 shots per hour.

Anna Srof, a senior nursing student, said, “The students came in, sat down, got their vaccine and left all within a minute or two.”

Wenger estimated that about 50 percent of the student population received the free vaccine.  Next to be vaccinated will be the elementary school age group.

“The schools are certainly seeing cases of H1N1, but it seems to be at a manageable level,” said Wenger.

Wenger named staying away from others who are sick, coughing or sneezing into your sleeve, getting plenty of rest, eating right and getting the H1N1 vaccine as easy strategies to avoid the flu.

“It has been an excellent experience for this group of students to be able to see how the local public health department is responding to the flu pandemic,” said Wenger.  “It is really something for them to be part of this—they are making history.”