While the vaccine to prevent the H1N1 flu is available, it has not yet reached clinics in northeast Wisconsin. However, local and county health departments are making arrangements for its distribution later this month or in early November, especially for at-risk groups. These include pregnant women and children, and people with underlying health risks.
When the vaccine becomes available – first in a nasal mist and then by injection – schools in the Green Bay Diocese will be part of the distribution network.
The Compass contacted the six Catholic high schools and two colleges in the diocese. All have been contacted by local health departments and had their facilities reviewed for inclusions as vaccination sites. Most of the schools are now making plans to host immunization clinics later this month or in early November. These include:
Appleton: All schools in the system, including Xavier High School, St. Joseph Middle School and St. Bernadette, St. Bernard, Catholic Central, St. Pius X and St. Thomas More elementary schools.
De Pere: St. Norbert College.
Green Bay: Notre Dame Academy.
Manitowoc: Roncalli High School and Silver Lake College, which will also have a seasonal flu clinic on Oct. 21.
Marinette: St. Thomas Aquinas Academy had been contacted by the Marinette County Health Department to gather site information. Teacher Jim Aldridge said the health department told him vaccine has been ordered.
Neenah-Menasha: St. Mary Central High School.
Oshkosh: Lourdes High School, St. John Neumann Middle School and St. Frances Cabrini and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton elementary schools.
Parents should contact individual schools or local health departments to learn dates and times of clinics as the vaccinations become widely available. It is advised not to contact your doctor’s office for this information, since medical offices are experiencing increased numbers of sick patients.
The diocesan Education Department is working with the 62 Catholic schools in the diocese in following advisories from local health departments.
As far as the decisions to close schools, the local health departments have told schools that if they have too few students or too few staff to properly conduct business, they must close.
“They’ve left that flexibility to us,” said Aldridge in Marinette.
Additionally, the diocese updated H1N1 guidelines for all parishes on Oct. 7. The guidelines state:
• If a parishioner is ill, he or she should refrain from attending daily or Sunday Mass for the sake of the common good of the community until flu-like symptoms have passed. As an alternative, a person should set aside time at home for quiet, private devotions and/or observe Mass via radio or television. Mass is broadcast at 5:30 a.m. Sundays on WBAY-TV (ABC) or EWTN (cable).
• All parishioners should observe particularly scrupulous hygiene in the regular washing of hands not only in connection with going to church but as a regular routine during the day.
• Before the commencement of Mass, the congregation should be instructed that the sign of peace does not have to be conducted with a hand shake. During this flu season, people may show the sign of peace in a manner that is most comfortable to them, which may be a nod and the words, “The peace of Christ be with you.”
• Ordinary and extraordinary ministers of Communion should always use an antiseptic hand sanitizer before distributing Communion. Care should be given to refrain from touching one’s mouth or nose after using the sanitizer.
• The reception of Communion in either the form of the consecrated host or the precious blood is the full reception of the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ. The reception of Communion in the form of the blood of Christ from the sacred cup is optional to the communicant. If a communicant does not receive the blood of Christ, he or she should bow to the sacred cup and return to one’s seat. Each person should use his or her judgment regarding the particular health-risk situation and the common good in determining whether to receive Communion under one or both species.