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SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO : Effort Is Shot in Arm for Immunization

Orange County Focus

May 25, 1994|AILEEN CHO

Johnny Palafox, 4, stared with big brown eyes as the nurse dabbed antiseptic on his finger. A moment later he was in tears as the needle pricked his finger.

Johnny may not have been pleased, but Betty Bumpers, who watched the procedure in South County Community Clinic, would like to see more children in his spot.

Bumpers, wife of Arkansas Sen. Dale Bumpers, visited the San Juan Capistrano clinic as part of her nationwide campaign, "Every Child by Two," which she co-founded with former First Lady Rosalynn Carter. The women are lobbying for every child younger than 2 to be immunized.

The campaign is "fueled by anger," she said. "Anger that we can't figure out a way to care for our children."

Bumpers and Carter had campaigned in the '70s to get all 50 states to require children entering kindergarten to have proof of immunization. They began the current campaign in 1991.

Bumpers visited South County Community Clinic this week because it is one of the only major health care facilities in the region to offer immunizations for free or for a discount, said executive director Margot Hughes-Lopez.

Orange County has "disastrously low rates" for immunization of children, Hughes-Lopez said. Only 53% of those 2 and younger have had the recommended series of shots.

"The problem (got) worse through the '80s," she said, citing a measles epidemic in 1990. "The barriers are primarily educational and motivational."

The clinic is hoping to become one of the first Orange County facilities to use a computer tracking system in conjunction with the county health department and other Orange County clinics to keep a record of each child's immunization progress.

Ideally, a child would receive immunization shots for measles, mumps and rubella, diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus, hepatitis, polio and tuberculosis, about 20 shots through several visits, by age 2, clinic employees said.

Johnny's mother, Clemencia, said in Spanish through an interpreter that she knew of no other facility nearby where her children could have been immunized.

She smiled as the nurse wrapped up Johnny's pin-pricked finger. So did Bumpers.

"What a brave boy you are," she said.

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