H1N1 Vaccine and Schoolchildren, Pregnant Women

Normally around this time of year, I post a reminder about back-to-school steps for asthma kids. Here lately, though, I’ve been focused on good ole H1N1, so why not read last year’s school post for tips?

Today, I’m tackling projections for this year’s cold and flu season, the swine flu vaccine, and school closures:

What are the experts predicting this fall and winter?

Well, check out the worst case U.S. scenario the CDC just released, for one. Because humans have low or no resistance to H1N1 and because it’s proved robust even during the (usually) flu-free summer months, the CDC estimates this pandemic’s peak could – emphasis on the could – see 40% of our workforce unable to, you know, work in the event of school closures and/or sick children. In addition and way more scary, hundreds of thousands of people could die if the vaccine in development now and other measures don’t help as well as everyone hopes.

That’s the worst case.

The question is, will we get that scenario or a better one? I can’t find any numbers on the likelihood of this pandemic panning out in either direction, probably because influenza is notoriously unpredictable, but here’s a compelling piece of information: the U.S. military is trying to plan for the possibility.

Again, emphasis on possibility. It’s always better to over-prepare and never use those plans than it is to find yourself scrambling in the middle of an emergency.

What about the vaccine?

Tests start soon, and the vaccine should be ready by the beginning of October. That’s the good news, the bad being the month or so of school that will occur before inoculation. My kids go back on August 24. The government’s weighing the idea of giving children the swine flu vaccine at school this year, an idea that not all parents support. (I do)

And today, we’ll find out who gets on the priority lists for vaccinations, in case they are scarce. So far as I’ve read, the list will likely include schoolchildren, health workers, and pregnant women. I don’t know about adult asthmatics or others with underlying medical conditions.

ETA: New vaccination guidelines are here.

Does that mean those people are most at risk from H1N1?

Alarming new research shows pregnant women who contract H1N1 have a much higher risk of complications, hospitalization, and even death than the rest of the population.

Children, though, appear to contract H1N1 most easily, as they make up 60% of confirmed cases at this point.

So what happens if schools close during a massive outbreak?

I can’t find any information about contingency school plans here in the U.S., but here’s an interesting piece on the British government’s possibly preempting the BBC’s normal programming in order to broadcast educational programs in the event of school closures there.

In another example, when hurricane damage to buildings forces temporary school closures in Florida (where I used to live), daily newspapers there often publish lessons for students until the normal schedule resumes.

What about homeschooling?

Some Asthma Mom readers have asked me whether other parents are considering homeschooling their asthma kids this year, in order to cut the risk of swine flu in their households way down. While I haven’t crunched any numbers or anything, it’s my impression that most of you asking this question are parents of youngish children. Please do correct me if I’m wrong.

Here’s what I can tell you:

My kids will be starting school next month. For new readers who don’t already know, I have a fifth grader with asthma and a non-asthmatic second grader. But I do, actually, have some experience with homeschooling, since I didn’t send AG to kindergarten when she was younger and her lungs struggled so mightily. Instead, I taught her at home and she started public school in first grade. My daughter keeps an inhaler in her school clinic and has experienced no emergencies since.

But while my asthma kid will start school as usual, for those of you who are interested in learning more about homeschooling, be aware of the thousands and thousands of websites with good resources out there. The homeschooling community is all over the Internet with ideas, advice, and contact information for groups in your area. You can even Google terms like *homeschool freebies* and *homeschool worksheets* for lessons and planning materials.

I’ll go one step further here, too, and offer up this blog as a contact point. If you’re considering homeschooling your asthma kids this year and want to talk with other likeminded parents, email me through the contact tab above and I’ll connect you.

And in the meantime?

Life in the Asthma Mom household goes on as usual. I’ve spent way too much money on school supplies (not one, but five – five! – packs of markers), and AG just got her first pair of contact lenses. She’s beyond excited to enter fifth grade glasses-free, and I’m ecstatic that I won’t have to worry about broken glasses during all her volleyball and basketball games.

And you? How are you all doing?

More on Asthma and H1N1

5 responses to “H1N1 Vaccine and Schoolchildren, Pregnant Women”

  1. Asthma Mom » Swine Flu and Asthma says:

    […] H1N1 Pregnancy Risks, Vaccine News, and the Possibility of Fall/Winter School Closures […]

  2. Louise says:

    Hi Amy,
    Thank you for your great report on H1N1 vaccine and returning to school. I am one of the moms thinking about homeschooling, just until vaccines are in place. I have twins entering 4th grade, only one asthmatic, which can get pretty bad when he has a virus. They are registered to go to a new, pretty small, private school. I have already purchased all text books and they are sitting on my living room floor right now. I am researching registering them with a private homeschooling program and then following their private school curriculum as best as I can. Have not spoken with the school yet, I am a new parent there and am concerned that they will think me absolutely crazy!

  3. Marcia says:

    Oh yes Louise, I’ve spoken to “nonasthma kid” parents and my son’s school nurse about homeschooling until the vaccine is in place and they certainly do think we’re crazy for even considering this.

    However, they don’t know my son and his medical issues which are more than just asthma. It’s unfortunate that this virus should happen now. My son is a freshman in high school this year. He’s not happy about not starting with his friends. I don’t blame him.

    Hubby and I are on the same page about keeping him out of school until he’s vaccinated. The pulmonologist says it’s “not unreasonable.” In fact, we just made the final decision tonight.

    We are just completely stumped as to what to do as far as homeschooling.

    I’m so glad I found this blog, it’s been so helpful.

  4. Lisa says:

    I, too, have had some “funny” looks when contemplating homeschooling my 3rd grade very asthmatic son until the vaccinations are out. I’m terrified of him contracting H1N1 since he has been hospitalized for the common cold and has severe food allergies and eczema as well. I would like him vaccinated, but during the last pandemic, weren’t there quite a few side effects from vaccinations? My son has had a difficult time with vaccinations, so even this scares me a little! As I’m understanding the current status on the H1N1 vaccinations, if our children can get the 1st shot early in October, the 2nd one would be 3 weeks later, and then it would be 3 more weeks until they’re fully immune. That’s 6 weeks–so close to Thanksgiving, roughly 2 1/2 months. Our pulmonologist said he has several families homeschool during the “flu” months every year so it certainly is done.

    For us, the jury is still out on homeschooling. My husband and I are leaning toward letting him start and keeping a close eye on the numbers of cases in the school. When a fair number crop up, it may be time to pull him until the vaccinations take hold.

    But here’s another thought. Our 3rd grader has a 7th grade non-asthmatic brother. If vaccinations aren’t out and our 7th grader gets sick… what do we do? So do we pull both of them?

    Thanks, Amy, for writing about this issue! It’s been one of the most difficult decisions we’ve faced yet!

  5. Amy says:

    Sure thing, Lisa. 🙂

    My understanding on the timing of the vaccination is the same as yours–while I’m happy kids would be protected by the holidays, it’s definitely October–early Nov. that worries me.

    Also, here’s a link to an article that discusses the 1976 swine flu & the problem w/vaccinations back then:

    http://articles.latimes.com/2009/apr/27/science/sci-swine-history27

    It’s a tough decision, either way. My daughter’s going to school, but a couple of things work in our favor—her health is very good right now, and Mr. Asthma Mom could telecommute if we ended up having to pull her out later for a few weeks.

    (Also, w/your question on both children, check out the article under “The Swine Flu” in the left sidebar–there’s some evidence that masks may help protect family members if someone in your house comes down w/it.)

    My basic plan is to watch closely, and wait.