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Farragut, Bearden slotted for free FluMist

No need to fear needles or the flu, Farragut and Bearden high school students and staff have the option to receive a free FluMist vaccination in November.

Knox County Mayor Michael Ragsdale, Knox County Health Department and Knox County Schools partnered with MedImmune, the company that produces FluMist, to kick off the FluMist project. MedImmune donated more than $1 million in FluMist vaccinations to Knox County Schools, enough to vaccinate about 53,000 people, “to help spread the word about FluMist and get people vaccinated,” KCHD public information officer Charity Menefee said.

“Nobody in Knox County is paying for it,” Menefee added.

FHS principal Mike Reynolds said, “Hopefully we won’t have the complications we had last year in having to shut school down for a time.”

Knox County Schools closed for two days due to a flu outbreak during the 2004-2005 school year.

Reynolds added, “That’s two instructional days you just lose, so anything that we can do to improve and to prevent that from taking place, I think we’re a step ahead of the game from where we were last year. Our understanding is that this is the FluMist as opposed to the shots, but it is still a preventative measure, and that’s what we want to take advantage of.”

BHS principal Barbara Jenkins added, “More importantly, it is here at the school where students who can’t get to it or get to another location or get to a doctor to get a vaccine of any kind, have that opportunity.”

Parental consent forms were sent home with students the week of Sept. 19. Forms must be signed by parents and turned in to receive the free vaccination. The program is voluntary.

Reynolds said, “We’ll run it pretty much like we do our blood drive. The health department will have people on hand.”

People raised concerns over the use of FluMist, mostly if it is safe. The Centers for Disease Control recommended that FluMist be administered to healthy persons ages 5-49, Menefee said.

FluMist is the nasal spray formulation of the flu vaccine and is a live vaccine, like the chicken pox and measles vaccine. It contains viruses that have been weakened and modified so they cannot cause influenza but still stimulates the body’s immune system to make antibodies that protect against influenza virus strains found in the vaccine.

The vaccine does not contain thimerosal, which can contain trace amounts of mercury and has been linked with autism, Menefee said.

For more information on FluMist and answers to frequently asked questions, go to the MedImmune Web site at

“The offering of FluMist provides an important public health service to our community,” said Ragsdale. “Our hope is that as you vaccinate our school children, you ultimately protect the community from the dangers of the flu.”


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