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Anyone can be immunized at no or low cost

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Ellis County Press ENNIS - Anyone could take advantage of the Outreach Health Services immunization program at no cost or a nominal fee of $20, whether they have health insurance or not.

Paula Ingram, licensed vocational nurse and OHS supervisor of the office in Ennis, said those participating in Women, Infants and Children can receive immunizations free of charge.

Ingram said those not on the WIC program could get the shots for $20, even if they have insurance which does not cover immunizations.

She said OHS doesn't handle Medicaid.

'Lots,' she said when asked how many people utilize the OHS/WIC immunization service.

Ingram said in a past 11-month period, the office administered 30,000 shots.

'We average from 250 to 450 in a month's time,' she said. 'School times are heavier.'

Most schools will begin their 2000-01 school year in less than a month. That means many children will be starting school for the first time.

However, Ingram said young, school-age kids aren't the only ones getting shots.

'We have teenagers and adults,' she said. 'We have from babies to adults. We work through WIC and the Texas Department of Health. We get a lot of Ferris folks down here, too.'

The office is located at 2705 N. Kaufman St. The telephone number is 972-875-0285.

Human Services hours are 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

A written release issued by OHS stated children should be immunized to protect them from dangerous childhood diseases, which can have serious complications or fatal.

According to OHS, diseases prevented by vaccines are measles, mumps, polio, rubella (German measles), pertussis, diphtheria, tetanus, haemophilus influenza type b (HIB disease), hepatitis B and varicella (chicken pox).

OHS stated vaccinations recommended by age two and can be given in five visits to a doctor or clinic are: one shot against measles/mumps/rubella (MMR); four against HIB (major cause of spinal meningitis); three against polio; four against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP); three against hepatitis B; and one against varicella.

According to OHS, serious reactions to vaccines are extremely rare, but do occur.

However, risks of serious disease from not vaccinating are far greater than risks of serious reaction to vaccination.

Side effects can occur depending on the vaccine such as rash or soreness at the site of the injection.

Slight discomfort is normal and should not be a cause for alarm.

Health care providers can assist with additional information.

If someone experiences a persistent or severe reaction, call a physician immediately. Make notes of what kind of reaction it was and when it occurred.

Ask the physician, nurse or health department to file a Vaccine Adverse Event Report form or all 1-800-338-2382.

Immunizations are required to begin at birth and most vaccinations are to be completed by age two.

Children under five years of age are especially susceptible to disease because of their immune systems haven't built necessary defenses to fight infection.

A vaccination health record helps maintain a child on schedule.

The record should be started at birth when the child receives the first shot and updated each time the child receives the next scheduled vaccination.

This information will help should the child move, change health care provider, when the child is enrolled in daycare or start school.

The record should accompany the child with each health care visit.

'Keeping kids healthy is a top priority of the WIC program,' said Ann Latham, nutrition education coordinator for OHS/WIC.

Latham said getting shots is fast, easy and affordable.

She said WIC clinics accept appointments and walk-ins.

According to a 1998 TDH survey, nearly 35 percent of Texas children were not up-to-date on recommended immunizations.

'That represents a lot of kids and a lot of potentially-preventable illnesses,' Latham said.

She said WIC nurses address concerns parents have, while trying to dispel popular myths about getting shots.

'Many people are concerned about allergic or other reactions to immunizations,' Latham said. 'The truth is, although reactions do sometimes occur, the chance of contracting a serious illness is far greater than the risk of a negative reaction to a shot.'

She said another misconception is many illnesses presenting huge problems decades ago have been eradicated or are no longer a threat.

'Although widespread epidemics of polio and diphtheria are a thing of the past, the risk is ever-present,' said James Chudleigh, a physician consultant for OHS/WIC. 'The consequences of contracting one of these diseases can be permanently disabling, or even fatal. But if children get all of their shots on time that risk is greatly diminished.'

Additional information about recommended immunization schedules and related topics can be found on the Internet through TDH at www.tdh.state.tx.us or the Center for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov.

For more information about WIC preventative heath services and eligibility or to make an immunization appointment, contact the Ennis OHS office or call toll-free 1-800-200-7121.

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