With bribes of ice cream, fast food and time off school, hundreds of Ventura County parents on Thursday coaxed their children into getting shots of the serum that will protect them from the flu-like measles virus.
"We're going back to McDonald's, maybe for a hot-fudge sundae," said Jan Glass, whose four daughters, ages 1 to 9, each burst into tears or tried to squirm away just before receiving their vaccinations at a clinic in Camarillo.
"We usually do this in our doctor's office. They don't cry as much there," the Camarillo resident said.
With the number of measles cases growing by the day, public health officials are making a major immunization push that they hope will stem the epidemic spreading throughout the county.
In Camarillo, parents and adults lined up by the hundreds outside a church for the county's first makeshift measles clinic. In Thousand Oaks, about 80 children filed into a family care clinic for the low-cost vaccine.
"I remember staying in bed sicker than a dog, with a high fever and a rash for a week," said Vickie Damarjian, 38, who brought her 5-year-old daughter, Melissa, to the clinic in Camarillo.
In recent days, the outbreak that began in Ventura and Oxnard has spread to the eastern portion of the county. There are now at least two confirmed cases in Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks, with several more suspected.
"Now that it's spread to the east county, maybe that is telling us we're in for some more trouble," said Dr. Gary Feldman, the county's public health officer.
"We need a two-week period without another case, and then we can feel like we've really got it under control."
There are now 38 confirmed and 37 suspected measles cases in Ventura County--far greater than the number reported in other Southern California counties, Feldman said.
Although children are most typically afflicted by the virus, a surprising number of the measles patients in Ventura County have been adults, he said.
Many adults are vulnerable because they never received a second shot of the vaccine to boost their immunization or because they never weathered the illness as a child.
Jeff and Doreen Baran of Camarillo said they decided to get their shots at Thursday's clinic because their insurance would not cover the vaccine for adults.
"They say it's worse for adults, so we don't want to be in bed for two weeks," said Doreen Baran. "I work with kids all day long and he works in Oxnard, where the outbreak started."
The Barans, like other adults in the line, said their insurance would only cover immunizations for their children. Without the coverage, their doctor would have charged $52 per shot; the county charged $5 per shot.
"For $104 we'll stand in line for an hour," Jeff Baran said.
Others showed up because they had misplaced their vaccination records and could not remember having measles as a child. Although the disease is usually benign, it can cause serious complications and even death in a small number of cases. So far, no one affected by this year's outbreak has been hospitalized, Feldman said.
"I am not really too concerned about it," 80-year-old Addison Buell Lewis said. But "I think just on general principle I should have the immunization."
By midafternoon, the clinic at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints behind Camarillo City Hall had attracted about 400 adults and children.
Although demand for the vaccine has been heavy at public health clinics for two weeks, the turnout in Camarillo took some public health officials by surprise.
At 3 p.m., organizers called for 200 more doses of vaccine and an equal number of fact sheets on the virus.
"Usually, when we have special clinics we don't have a very good turnout," said Caron Tait, a supervising nurse with the Public Health Department. "This one has been very successful."
Low-cost measles immunizations are available to Ventura County residents at the following locations: The Ventura Public Health Department, 3147 Loma Vista Road. Shots are given Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 1:30 to 5 p.m. Oxnard Public Health, 2500 South C St. Shots are given Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 8 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 4 p.m. Simi Public Health, 2003 Royal Ave. Shots given Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Moorpark Clinic, Varsity Park Plaza, 6559 Princeton Ave. Shots given this Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon.