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HEALTHWATCH : 98% of County's School-Age Youths Have Necessary Shots : A no-cost vaccination fair for children from 2 months to 18 years is planned Sept. 12 in Simi Valley.

September 02, 1993|LEO SMITH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A couple of weeks back, we spoke with local health professionals about the importance of immunizing children against measles, mumps, diphtheria, polio and other diseases affecting them.

Well, here's some good news and some less than good news.

First, the good. According to Sue Hyatt, county immunization program director for the Department of Public Health, about 98% of school-age children in the area have had the necessary shots.

It helps that state law requires that children be up-to-date on their immunizations before entering school.

On the other hand, Hyatt said, only about 51% of kids age 2 and younger have all of their immunizations, a percentage consistent with other portions of the state.

So why are so few county youths vaccinated?

"Immunizations are not something that people feel the need for," Hyatt said. "They are not easy to sell, but they are available to almost anyone in the county, at low cost or for free. There are all kinds of reasons why immunization levels are lower than they should be."

Those reasons, she said, include lack of education on the importance of vaccinations and lack of awareness of low-cost opportunities.

One such low-cost--in fact, no-cost--opportunity will present itself Sept. 12, noon to 4 p.m., at Simi Valley's Mountain Gate Plaza on Los Angeles Avenue at 1st Street.

That is the time and place that the organization Children Now, in conjunction with Simi Valley Hospital, will hold the Ventura County version of the Kids Care Fair, for youths age 2 months to 18 years.

The county Kids Care health fair is set up to provide free immunizations for common childhood diseases, as well as six basic health screenings, including those for vision, blood pressure, scoliosis, lung capacity, height, weight and dental health. Last year, about 375 Ventura County children were treated at the health fair.

Other fairs are scheduled in 34 locations throughout Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Orange and Riverside counties from Sept. 10 to 12.

According to Joan McCandless, project director for the entire fair program, about 62% of those who attended throughout Southern California last year had no access to public or private health insurance.

Many others, she said, were on Medi-Cal or had insurance that did not cover preventive services.

"There is a lack of access to regular health care. These kids are not in the system anywhere," McCandless said. "If they were in the system, parents would be aware of the need for immunizations. I don't think a lot of parents are aware. They haven't seen these devastating childhood diseases for years."

In Ventura County, Hyatt said, many middle-class families took advantage of the health services provided at last year's fair.

"We see people who are not in low economic groups, but who take advantage of the low-cost or free immunizations, because it can be terribly expensive," Hyatt said. "Many are either working poor or working, not poor, but don't have insurance."

Low-cost services are available year-round at the various county clinics. Call 652-5918 for information.

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