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New York City to Offer Free Swine Flu Vaccine to School Children

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In a bold move to combat the anticipated return of swine flu this fall, the New York City school district will provide free vaccinations to its 1 million-plus students.

New York City was the first large U.S. city to be hit hard when the H1N1 swine flu virus first surfaced last spring. Hundreds of children in the city were sickened by the disease. Officials estimate as many as 1 million city residents fell ill, and more than 50 people died, the Associated Press reported.

"We know New Yorkers are concerned, very understandably, about the risks that they might face," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday. "Our job is to plan in case it is a big deal."

The vaccine given to school children -- in private as well as public schools -- will mostly be a nasal mist rather than a shot, the AP said.

Hundreds of school districts nationwide have agreed to allow vaccinations in school buildings, once the vaccine becomes available in mid- to late October, the news service said.

Meanwhile, federal officials reported Wednesday that swine flu infections appeared to be increasing in southeastern states, probably because of the reopening of schools there. But swine flu activity seemed to be stable in other regions of the country.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was reporting a total of 8,843 hospitalizations and 556 deaths linked to swine flu, as of Aug. 22, the most recent statistics available. The week before, those numbers stood at 7,983 hospitalizations and 522 deaths, the agency said.

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