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Elementary schools begin giving students H1N1 vaccine today

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein went to Brooklyn’s P.S. 157 this morning to give students moral support while they received the first round of swine flu vaccinations. The Bedford-Stuyvesant school is one of the city’s 125 smallest elementary schools that began to administer the vaccine today.

As fourth-grader Francisco Gomez, 8, braced himself for his shot, Klein tried to distract him with small talk about the World Series. “What’s your favorite baseball team?” Klein asked. “Do you like the Yankees?”

Afterward, Gomez said he had been nervous because he had heard the shot hurts the most for younger children. “But it only hurt a little,” he said.

P.S. 157’s principal, Maribel Torres, said that roughly a third of her students’ parents opted for the free vaccine. City health officials said they hoped between 30 and 50 percent of elementary school students would be inoculated against the H1N1 virus. Parents must sign consent forms for their children to receive the vaccine, which is given either as a nasal spray or as a shot for students with possible complications such as asthma.

Elementary schools with more than 400 students will begin to offer the vaccine on November 4, with the remaining elementary schools starting the following Monday. Middle and high school students can get the vaccine at the roughly 60 weekend clinics that will open in November, officials said.

Although there have been relatively few cases of the flu so far this season compared to last spring, Klein and city health officials said the number of cases is likely to rise and urged parents to opt for the vaccinations.

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