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— Thousands of youngsters will have a chance to receive the flu vaccine as Arkansas funds vaccines for all students through their schools.

Local schools are doing what they can to prepare for the shot distribution, which will begin at various times throughout the fall. Before receiving the shot, children must have a state-issued permission slip signed by their parents. Once the permission slips — which have not yet arrived in schools for distribution — are returned, school officials will know how many vaccinations are needed.

Providing the vaccines in a short amount of time will be a big undertaking, even for the area’s smallest schools. Therefore, schools are enlisting the help of volunteer nurses, parents and college students to help in the process, including crowd control, paperwork and, for some qualified volunteers, administering the vaccines.

Northwest Arkansas Community College will send nursing students to Bentonville, Decatur, Gentry, Gravette, Pea Ridge and Siloam Springs to assist in the effort, said Elaine Holloway, NWACC director of nursing. The students, who will be supervised by NWACC instructors, will help with all aspects of the operation.

“This will count as part of the required clinical experience in two courses in NWACC’s nursing-program curriculum,” she said.

Some students will also help in the Rogers schools as part of required community service for the NWACC Student Nurses Association.

“We are very pleased to be participants in this countywide effort,” Holloway said. “It’s a valuable learning experience for our students. Students are required to take a pediatrics nursing course, which includes both theory and ‘hands-on’ experience. This is an opportunity for our students to be involved in a major healthcare delivery event, unlike anything NWACC nursing students have ever done.

“It’s history-making and a huge undertaking,” Holloway continued. “Sure, our students will get credit for the hours spent in the flu-vaccination clinics, but on a grander scale, they’ll be contributing to maintaining the health of the public. And that’s a big part of what nurses do.”

The schedule for the schools in the area, as known at press time, is as follows:

• Decatur: Oct. 19-20, with the middle school and high school receiving vaccines on the first day, followed by the elementary school.

• Gentry: Oct. 26-27.

Sports, Pages 7 on 10/07/2009

Print Headline: Schools prep for flu season:

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