Doctor criticizes school board’s approach to H1N1

A Halifax doctor had some tough questions for the Halifax Regional School Board on Wednesday night, telling board members he was concerned about how HRSB handled the second wave of the H1N1 pandemic in area schools.

Dr. Paul W. Bennett, director of the Schoolhouse Consulting Group in Halifax, said schools should have been an integral part of the swine flu vaccine rollout.

“Other provinces have chosen to involve school boards in the administration of immunization campaigns from the very beginning,” Bennett told board members. “Why did the HRSB, and more particularly (the province’s chief medical health officer Dr. Robert Strang), rule out school-based H1N1 flu clinics?”

Bennett, who gave a 10-minute presentation at the board meeting in Dartmouth, said he’s not interested in laying blame, but simply felt there are “some questions that need to be asked.”

He suggested after school-aged children were identified as a high-risk group, parents could have at least been sent a consent form to sign indicating their child could be vaccinated in school – a strategy implemented in New Brunswick.

But board member Gina Conrad said Nova Scotia shouldn’t be compared to other jurisdictions.

“Just because someone else does it, does it mean that we have to do it?” she asked.

HRSB Senior Staff Advisor Judy White added opening clinics in schools was considered, but ultimately the vaccine supply shortage made it impossible.

“(Health officials) have always worked form a priority list, and were trying to get the vaccine to those who needed it the most,” she told Bennett. “We basically said we would do whatever we could to help, but we can’t do a five-week shutdown in one particular school.”

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