Mid-summer means vaccination time

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BRENDA CONYERS
With summer more than half over and school just around the corner, that means vaccination time is here for elementary, high school and even college students.


“School is going to start soon and we are hoping to get parents to start thinking about vaccinations before school starts,” said Anita Hooper, immunization coordinator for the Marion County Health Department.


“There are the 4- to 5-year-olds who are just starting school, the 15-year-olds who need to get their tetanus shots, and the college freshman who need their hepatitis vaccine.”


Hooper said the health department has emphasized vaccinations for children and adults in the county in the past several years. The department has tried to keep people aware of when vaccines are due and educate the public.


“It is difficult to keep up with the changes and keep current with the recommended immunization program,” Hooper said. “Our staff attends two in-depth workshops a year to keep us updated and on top of those changes.”


In addition to knowing the latest standards for vaccine protocol established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the MCHD also keeps record of vaccines given to residents on a computer network system.


“This is a great system,” Hooper said. “We are hooked up through the computer on a statewide network. So if someone moves into our county, but is not quite sure what they need, we can pull it up and get information from other health departments from all over the state.”


Hooper said families with young children can easily overlook when vaccinations are due.


“With the computer system, we send out reminders to parents, and they seem to really appreciate that service,” Hooper said. “We realize families lead busy lives, and to send out these reminders are a courtesy we can offer to parents.”


She said because of public education, the reminders and discounted prices, about 92 percent of the county’s 2-year-olds are current on their vaccines.


“And we’re working to help the other 8 percent catch up,” she said.


Hooper said vaccines are expensive, and one advantage of the health department is the discounted prices it offers residents.


“We get our vaccines from the state at no charge,” she said. “All we charge for public vaccines is an administrative fee of about $5.”


She said the state does not consider some vaccines “public,” and the price for these are slightly higher.


“We buy these directly from the manufacturer and then add only $5 to it,” Hooper said. “It is still less expensive to our families.”


“Private” vaccines would include those for hepatitis A and meningitis, and some of the adult vaccines.


Immunization series start for children at age 2 months and are given at 4 months, 6 months, 12 months, after the fourth birthday, 15 years and just prior to starting college.


“I like to see parents bring their children in soon after their fourth birthday so children don’t associate a ‘shot’ with school,” Hooper said.


Since babies and young children require a number of vaccines, some can be safely grouped together so only one injection is required.


Hooper says the combination of vaccines costs about $20.


Vaccinations are offered on Wednesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. The first Wednesday of every month the clinic is open until 6 p.m.


Hooper said no one is turned away because of time or money.


“We want everyone to have their immunizations,” she said. “If our schedule doesn’t work for someone, we hope they will call, we’ll work with them.


“And we won’t turn anyone away because of money. We want everyone to have their immunizations.”

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