County will continue to fund FluMist program


Deanna Davis, 6, receives a FluMist vaccination last year at Glen Springs Elementary School in northwest Gainesville.

ERICA BROUGH/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 1:12 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 last 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."

Last 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 former state Rep. Charles S. "Chuck" Chestnut IV. They were sworn into office on Tuesday.

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.

Morgan Watkins is a Gainesville Sun staff writer.

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