Helping students stay healthy at school

Free vaccination clinics help keep kids up-to-date on immunizations

Jill Conley of Washougal gets a chicken pox immunization during a free clinic at Lacamas Medical Group in Camas. Her mom, Bettina Conley, comforts her. “It’s a lot worse if they don’t get these shots,” she said.

Jill Conley’s lower lip began trembling as the nurse prepared her chicken pox vaccination.“Is it going to hurt?” she asked her mom, Bettina.

“A lot less than chicken pox,” Bettina replied.

Jill, 9, and her younger sister, Isabel, 8, were at the free immunization clinic offered by Lacamas Medical Group last week. It was coordinated for families who are without a regular health care provider.

Although no one enjoys getting vaccinations, Bettina feels it is better than the alternative.

“It’s a lot worse if they get these diseases,” she said. “I don’t want to see them sick with something we can prevent.”

The vaccination clinic is one of four being offered this month in Southwest Washington. The goal is to get children current on their immunizations before school begins. Children who are not fully immunized may be sent home from school if a disease outbreak occurs.

Some parents exempt their children from vaccinations for religious or personal reasons, which has resulted in Clark County having one of the highest exemption rates in the nation at 7 percent.

“High exemption rates are concerning because they increase the risk of disease in schools and day care,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County health officer. “This causes unnecessary illness, and takes valuable time away from learning.”

Dr. Dino Ramzi has been with LaCamas Medical Group for four years. The clinic has offered free immunizations every year.

“We do it because we feel that we have a responsibility to the local community,” he said. “SEAMAR and the free clinic just don’t have the resources. We are the only facility in East County to offer this.”

SEAMAR is a Vancouver medical clinic that offers services to community members without regular health insurance, on a sliding scale.

There are some who argue that if vaccinations are effective, then people should not be concerned about un-vaccinated children.

“No vaccines are 100 percent,” Ramzi said. “But even if it’s in the 90 percent range, that is pretty good. If more people are vaccinated, you are less likely to get it.”

He mentioned the measles epidemic in the United Kingdom.

“It is absolutely horrendous,” Ramzi said. “You get dead babies and kids. But when you don’t see it here for awhile, it’s easy not to see the danger.”

As far as the argument about side effects, he added neither herbs nor vaccinations are free of those.

“People tend to want to go with a ‘natural’ remedy, but that can have side effects as well,” Ramzi said. “Vaccines are the single most effective thing in medicine that we have.”

Those who are seeking information about vaccinations often turn to the Internet, but this can be dangerous as well, he added. Ramzi recommends searching Medline Plus or the National Library of Medicine for more information.

“It’s not a bad thing to be critical,” he said. “But there is a lot of misinformation out there, and it can be dangerous.”

A free immunization clinic will be offered at the Free Clinic of SW Washington, 4100 Plomondon St., Vancouver, on Wednesday, Aug. 28 beginning at 5 p.m., on a first-come, first-served basis.