County agrees to fund FluMist program another 15 years


In this Oct. 3, 2012 file photo, University of Florida College of Nursing student Alyssa Larsen administers FluMist, a nasal spray flu immunization, to Glen Springs Elementary School fifth-grader Shane Shorter. The Alachua County Commission voted Tuesday to fund FluMist for the next 15 years.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 5:22 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 5:22 p.m.

Alachua County's FluMist program might not run forever, but it will for at least the next 15 years.

The Alachua County Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to approve funding FluMist over that time period using $1.5 million of the CHOICES program's money.

The voter-approved CHOICES program was created to offer health care access to working, uninsured county residents and support countywide health and wellness projects.

Schoolchildren countywide are vaccinated against the flu through the FluMist program, which began in 2009. So far this year, more than 10,000 children in public and private schools have been vaccinated, and that number likely will climb to 14,000 students, said Paul Myers, administrator of the Alachua County Health Department.

Of the $1.5 million, the program will use $100,000 per year to cover a substantial chunk of its administrative costs. The Florida Department of Health provides the FluMist vaccines.

Of the thousands of children vaccinated this year through the program, none have contracted confirmed cases of the flu, he said.

Commissioner Mike Byerly said the extension provides a great research opportunity. If it performs as well as expected, he said it will have a solid case for renewal in 15 years.

A prior idea to fund the program indefinitely using interest revenue from the CHOICES fund was dismissed by county staff after interim County Manager Richard Drummond called it economically unviable.

Cuc Tran, a 28-year-old University of Florida doctoral student and former FluMist program coordinator, said she was excited to see local government support an important public health effort.

“It's such a unique opportunity,” she said. “And everyone sees the value in it.”

The commission also voted unanimously Tuesday to opt out of a state septic system inspection program that would have required tank evaluations every five years.

It is one of 19 Florida counties with first-magnitude springs that have been asked to decide whether to opt out of the program by Jan. 1, 2013. High Springs is one of three municipalities also given this choice.

Alachua County has three first-magnitude springs, which pump 65 million gallons of fresh water per day: the Santa Fe Rise, Hornsby and Treehouse springs.

As of October, 11 of the other 18 counties, including Marion County, had decided against the plan, which was laid out in House Bill 1263, a Department of Health reorganization measure that passed the state Legislature in April. The bill repealed a Florida-wide inspection program passed in 2010 that mandated reviews of all septic systems by qualified contractors every five years.

If Alachua County had implemented the program, eligible homeowners with septic tanks would have had to pay for the twice-a-decade inspections and a coinciding pumping out of their systems.

Tuesday's regular commission meeting was the last for Commissioners Paula DeLaney and Winston Bradley, who will be replaced by incoming board members Robert “Hutch” Hutchinson and state Rep. Charles S. “Chuck” Chestnut IV when they are sworn into office on Nov. 20.

Both received engraved gifts for their service, including the traditional gift of a gavel for DeLaney as the outgoing chair.

Bradley, who was appointed to the board in February as former Commissioner Rodney Long's replacement, said it was a challenging but rewarding experience.

“If I have any regrets, my greatest regret is really that we were not able to give the employees a raise, and I'm hoping the new commission will be able to do that,” he said.

DeLaney, who was elected to the board in 2004 and before that served on the Gainesville City Commission and as mayor, thanked county staff across all departments for their support.

“Serving in local government has truly been the most exciting and educational experience of my life, and I am very proud to have had this opportunity,” she said.

Contact Morgan Watkins at 352-338-3104 or morgan.watkins@gvillesun.com.

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