In the United States, students miss 38 million days of school each year because of the flu. This school year, the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) would like to see 100 percent attendance, complete with healthy students in class learning, healthy teachers teaching their lessons, and healthy parents/guardians at work. To reach this goal, one important step we can all take is to get the flu vaccine every year – that means students, school staff, and families. I got mine for this flu season – what about you?
Flu is serious and highly unpredictable, but it can be prevented. School nurses support the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation that everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine each year. This is important since the flu can make children sick enough to miss school, be hospitalized, or even die. Did you know that 90 percent of the children who died from the flu last season missed getting their flu vaccine, and most of them were previously healthy? Listen to the voices of parents who know how serious flu can be in children first hand.
The grandparents in your community should also get an annual vaccine – those more than 65 years of age are more at risk for influenza and its complications. When children are protected from getting the flu because they were vaccinated, a protective bubble is created around their grandparents and anyone else in their school community who might be at great risk for the complications of flu, including babies, fellow students who have a chronic condition such as asthma, or anyone with a weak immune system. Ultimately, the flu vaccine protects children and others in our communities.
Finally, I want to speak to my fellow school nurses. First and foremost, lead by example and let others know you got your flu vaccine. Check out the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases website to see who else is committed to leading by example. Second, stay informed about current vaccine recommendations and resources so you are able to make a strong recommendation in your schools resulting in greater vaccine uptake in your communities. And be sure to check out the NASN influenza website.
School nurses strongly recommend that everyone at school get the flu vaccine this flu season. Ask your school nurse where you can go in your community to get vaccinated. Let’s keep the flu out of school!
Nichole Bobo, MSN, RN is the Director of Nursing Education for the National Association of School Nurses (NASN). She has been with the organization since 2000, providing oversight for NASN’s immunization programming.