< >

Free vaccines offered for children, caregivers of infants

Posted on Aug. 10, 2011 ( comments)

Whooping cough (pertussis) is on the rise in Pierce County, so it's a good time to take advantage of free vaccinations for children and teens, and for anyone caring for infants younger than 1.

In Pierce County, 15 of the 18 pertussis cases reported in July were diagnosed through labs at MultiCare Health System. The ages of the patients ranged from 29 days to 62 years. Of those cases, one child was admitted and treated. The others were treated in clinics or Emergency Departments.

The MultiCare Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital & Health Center Mobile Immunization Clinic travels throughout Pierce County and provides all immunizations recommended by the CDC. Call 253-792-6630 to make an appointment, or find a nearby walk-in clinic at the Mobile Immunization Clinic's website.

Additionally, MultiCare Mobile Health Services, based in Puyallup, offers vaccinations throughout Pierce County and provides free immunizations to all children from birth through 18 years of age (a $15.60 administration fee per vaccine can be billed to insurance, or can be reduced for those without insurance). No child will be denied vaccine based on ability to pay the fee. Call 253-697-4010 or visit the MultiCare Mobile Health Services website.

“People might not be aware that pertussis is not an illness that affects only children,” said Susan Gustafson, RN, Infection Preventionist at MultiCare Health System. “Even people who have been fully vaccinated, they’re not protected forever. It’s estimated that by the time kids graduate from high school, they’re no longer protected by their childhood vaccinations. So everyone really should be re-vaccinated with the adult pertussis vaccine, even if they have had it in the past.”

Additionally, summer is the perfect time to get a jumpstart on childhood vaccinations required by the state before schools starts again this fall. Children are due for a series of immunizations between the ages of 4 and 6, and again at between the ages of 11 and 12.

Why get vaccinated now?

In the week before school starts, many doctor’s offices don’t have appointments available and wait times at some other community clinics can stretch into hours. Take advantage of the lull of summer: there’s more time for personal attention. We can help answer any questions and explain which vaccines are required at which ages. If you’re looking for added incentive, the office is air conditioned and kids leave with a lollipop.

What if I don’t have health insurance or can’t afford it?

The immunizations are free to all children from birth through 18 years of age (as well as whooping cough vaccines for caregivers of infants younger than 1), and everyone who shows up is immunized. There are no fees and no insurance co-pays. These vaccines are completely free.

Are there any new vaccinations that are recommended for older children or teens?

For teens younger than 19 who are about to head off to college this fall, the CDC now recommends a second dose of meningitis vaccine. Additionally, the vaccine for HPV (human papillomavirus) is available for both girls and boys. These vaccines are free of charge.

What ages are required to be vaccinated?

Children are due for a series of immunizations between the ages of 4 and 6, and again at between the ages of 11 and 12, according to guidelines from the CDC. Some vaccines due at these ages are also required by the state Department of Health before the first day of kindergarten and before the start of sixth grade. Children must be at least 4 years old to receive their kindergarten shots, and at least 11 years old to obtain their sixth-grade shots. The clinic provides all immunizations that are recommended by the CDC.

Why do some people not get vaccinations?

Some parents might be overwhelmed, may be new to the area, or perhaps they haven’t kept up with regular physician visits for their child. They may lack health insurance or fear there’s a cost. Others might have unanswered questions about vaccines. Not having a regular family doctor, a lack of medical insurance and a lack of transportation are not barriers to getting children's immunizations.

What does state law say about childhood vaccinations?

This year, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a bill requiring a parent or guardian to show that they have received information from a health care provider on the benefits and risks of immunization before opting out of school vaccination requirements. As of July 22, parents or guardians who want to exempt their child from school or child care immunization requirements must fill out and submit the updated Certificate of Exemption form to their school or childcare. A health care provider does not need to sign the Certificate of Exemption form for parents or guardians who show membership in a church or religious group that does not allow a health care provider to provide medical care to a child.

Why are vaccinations important?

Unvaccinated kids are more likely to catch and spread serious illnesses like whooping cough and measles, which can be prevented by vaccines, according to the state Department of Health. Making sure kids have all recommended immunizations protects them, their classmates, friends, and families from preventable diseases. Kids who aren’t fully immunized may be excluded from attending school, preschool, or child care if a disease outbreak occurs. “Childhood immunizations save lives and are one of the most effective ways to protect kids from serious, preventable illnesses,” said state Secretary of Health Mary Selecky. “There’s a lot of confusing information about vaccine circulating around, this law makes sure that parents will get reliable facts from one of their most trusted sources — a health care provider.”

What should I bring with me for vaccinations?

Please bring your child's shot record with you. For the safety of your child it is important for the immunization nurse to know what shots your child has already received and when they were given. If vaccines have been missed in the past, it’s never too late to get children caught up.

Free childhood vaccinations
What: Walk-in clinic offers free vaccinations for all children from birth through age 18.
Where: Call 253-792-6630 to make an appointment for free vaccinations, or find a nearby walk-in clinic at the Mobile Immunization Clinic's website.

View all articles