Free flu shots available for Sarasota County students

- Six-year-old Cooper Smith was getting his flu shot Monday. His parents wanted to make sure he's safeguarded. 

"So many children have already passed away that didn't get the shot," said his grandmother, Mary Riddle. 

The Florida Department of Health, along with Sarasota County Schools, are making sure vaccines are available to all students, free of charge.  They've opened up three schools for shots on Monday and Tuesday. 

"I had a really high fever. I couldn't eat anything and I was miserable," said 17-year-old Kaitlin Thibodeau, who already had the flu.  Her mom wants to make sure she doesn't get it again. 

"A lot of people have been out of school and not coming to school," she said. 

Across the country 63 kids have died from the flu, including five right here in Florida. 

"It's aggressive, it's attacking immune systems that are otherwise healthy," said Karen McCormack, Sarasota County Schools’ health supervisor. 

McCormack said they haven't seen a large number of absences, but the county wants to get ahead of the virus. 

"It's affecting younger children moreso than the elderly at this point," she continued. 

McCormick continues to answer concerned phone calls from parents. 

"The more children we can reach out to and their families to get them covered is just better prevention and better public health," she said. 

After the flu shot, McCormack said mom's old advice of good hand-washing and covering your coughs and sneezes is as important as ever for preventing the flu.   If you do get sick, don't spread it around. 

"If you’re sick, stay home. If you're child is sick, keep them home. If they have a fever of 100 or more, they cannot come to school," she said. 

Tuesday, free flu shots for students will be offered at  North Port High School, Laurel Nokomis School and Tuttle Elementary from 3:30 to 6:00 p.m.

Any questions can be directed to the School Health Office, according to the school district, at 941-927-9000 x 32101. An updated consent form can be found on the school district website.

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