Five-year-old Benito Reyes stared stoically at the wall Thursday as nurse Gloria Vancurler administered vaccination shots. When it looked like a cry might creep out, Benito stared even harder.
When all was done, Benito hopped down from his chair and took an orange balloon. Asked if the shots hurt, he vigorously shook his head "no."
Benito was one of about 50 Rio Vista Elementary School students who received their back-to-school vaccinations Thursday as part of a program sponsored by Kaiser Permanente Hospital-Orange County and the County Health Care Agency.
The students received free vaccinations for 10 diseases, including measles, mumps, polio, diphtheria and tetanus.
The school was selected for the program because 200 of its 1,200 students last year were not immunized. That number is not unusually large, however.
Nationally, about 20% of all children are not fully immunized, and in some urban areas, the number is 50% and higher, government reports say.
"The school came to us and asked us for help," Kaiser spokeswoman Amy Baker Senna said. "Its needs are high because many of the students are the children of farm workers, and they just don't have access to basic health care."
Anne Beaumont, chairwoman of the school's PTA Health Committee, said part of the reason so many students aren't vaccinated is a state law that allows non-immunized students to enroll if their parents sign a waiver.
"Many of the parents just don't believe in immunizing their kids," Beaumont said. "They think the vaccine itself may be harmful or may make their children sick or that the children may have a bad reaction if they are allergic to the vaccine."
To educate the parents Thursday, each was required to watch a video talking about the dangers of the diseases for which the immunizations were being administered.
There was a shot of a girl with diphtheria, phlegm covering her face as she coughed.
There was a boy scarred horribly by measles as the narrator said that 600 children die annually nationwide from pneumonia caused by the disease.
There was a woman who was paralyzed in 1954 by polio and to this day lives in an iron lung.
Margarita Trinidad, Benito's mother, said that she already knew immunizing her children was important but that it is sometimes difficult to go to health clinics that are miles from home.
"It is very convenient to have this at school, where there are no long lines,' she said.
Beaumont said that beyond the health aspect of the program, there is also an educational aspect.
"Even if the child recovers from the disease, they are going to be out of school and will fall behind," she said. "Immunizing these children helps to give them an equal chance at an education."
The Orange County Health Care Agency is offering free immunizations for children in kindergarten through 12th grade at the following offices:
* Buena Park: 7342 Orangethorpe Ave.; Thursdays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (also, this Monday and Tuesday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.)
* Costa Mesa: 2845 Mesa Verde Drive East; first and third Wednesdays of each month, 1 to 4 p.m.
* San Juan Capistrano: 27512 Calle Arroyo; Thursdays, 1 to 4 p.m.
* Santa Ana: 1725 W. 17th St.; Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Tuesdays 8 a.m.-7 p.m.)
* Westminster: 6462 Industry Way; Tuesdays, 12:30 to 4 p.m.
Source: Orange County Health Care Agency;