H1N1 vaccine might be free for students

January 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

If H1N1 injections became available to Kwantlen students, they might be covered under the existing student health plan.

The Kwantlen Student Association is looking into the possibility of including H1N1 vaccines in student health benefits. The KSA has contacted Gallivan & Associates, Kwantlen’s health and dental insurance company, and hopes to negotiate the vaccine’s inclusion, should it become widely available.

“We’ve taken steps to make a change to the plan so that that cost would be at least partially or wholly covered by the KSA,” said KSA general manager Desmond Rodenbour.

If the H1N1 vaccine is added to the benefits, Kwantlen will direct students to vaccination clinics for the shot. Rodenbour said he hopes all full-time students on the medical plan would be eligible to receive the immunization.
Currently, the vaccine is still being developed and the KSA doesn’t have a projected cost

for the shot, but it’s expected to be generally available later in the fall. The Public Health Agency of Canada reports that the government intends to purchase 50.4 million doses of the vaccine, enough to cover the population of Canada.

Linda McCannell, a program leader in communicable disease for the Richmond Health Department, said she doesn’t think people in good health should be as concerned about getting infected as those who are illness-prone.

“From what I’ve seen, the severity [of H1N1] tends to be very similar to regular flu,” she said. “It’s pregnant women, it’s children two years of age, it’s people with chronic health problems and those are who we normally immunize for flu [who might have a more severe reaction].”

Janine Hadfield, a coordinator of the Kwantlen Wellness Centre, said the regular seasonal flu shots will be given on campus near the end of October or early November.

Last year, about 180 staff and students got flu shots on-campus, according to Eddie Lee of the Student Health Improvement Program.

Lee said the number of people getting the shot might increase because of the awareness of the flu virus.

Lee estimated the flu shot will cost $15 to $20, adding that the KSA will subsidize some of the cost for students on the health plan.

Kwantlen is promoting good hygiene, such as washing your hands and covering your mouth when you cough, as defences against the flu in general and H1N1 in particular. Automated hand-sanitizer stations have been installed at main entrances and updates about influenza are available on the Kwantlen website (www. kwantlen.ca/hr/ohs/h1n1.html).

“The primary thing is education,” said Peter Chevrier, Kwantlen’s director of marketing and communications. “If we educate everybody on some of the really fundamental, basic processes, you start to cut down on the likelihood of infection.”

According to Kwantlen’s Influenza Exposure Control Plan, the Emergency Management Committee would issue a health notice in the event of a major flu epidemic.

Students should be concerned if they have a fever above 38 C and any other H1N1 symptom such as cough or shortness of breath. Suspected and confirmed cases should be reported immediately to Healthlink BC at 8-1-1 and the manager of Kwantlen’s Occupational Health & Safety Office at (604) 599-2924.

Much of the Influenza Exposure Control Plan is about precautions to stop the spread before it starts.

Local and regional health authorities would decide if school closures are needed. Kwantlen, however, is not restricted from implementing its own preventive measures, said Chevrier.

“We have a lot of freedom to do what we feel is the best in order to provide a level of commitment to the health and safety of our students,” he said.

He added that the janitorial crews have been trained for more thorough and frequent decontamination, such as sanitizing doorknobs and handrails.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has reported five cases of H1N1 in B.C. There are no reports of H1N1 affecting anyone at Kwantlen.