Immunization Deadline Passes
"The Austin Independent School District lost almost $27,000 Wednesday. The district barred 983 students from school because their immunizations were not up to date."
KEEPING CHILDREN HEALTHY: Detroit schools immunize so kids, funds keep coming
BY CHASTITY PRATT
FREE PRESS EDUCATION WRITER
September 22, 2004
Arnesha Tumpkin had a rough morning at Biddle Primary School on Tuesday. It started with her mom hugging the 5-year-old tightly while she got the shots -- five in all. "I want a hug," she said tearfully, sliding from her mother's lap into the arms of Teresa Holtrop, a doctor from Children's Hospital of Michigan.
Arnesha and her sister, Ayanah, 3, received free shots as part of the immunizations blitz going on in Detroit Public Schools through Oct. 15. The effort is sending 11 mobile units to more than 200 elementary and middle schools in an attempt to reach a portion of the 20,500 students whose shot records are not up to date. It is a collaboration of several hospitals and the Detroit school nurses.
At a minimum, the teams hope to reach about 6,000 students and avoid keeping children out of school because their immunizations aren't up to date. "They can't learn anything if they're sitting at home," said Anntinette McCain, who supervises the district's school health programs. The blitz also comes at a crucial time for the cash-strapped district. The state requires that 90 percent of kindergarteners and new students have up-to-date immunizations by Nov. 1. If the district misses that deadline, the state can withhold state funds. In Detroit, that's about 6,000 students .
The district has also targeted about 1,700 sixth graders whose records show they need hepatitis and chicken pox vaccinations. The number of students lacking immunizations are part of a larger health care problem, McCain said: Many parents have no insurance or cannot get an appointment to see their primary care doctors soon. Though schools sent home letters and made calls to try to get consent for the shots, the medical teams so far have met with confusion. Some parents have no idea which shots their children need, or where to find the shot records. Many do not have health care coverage and school office workers are having to call parents to get consent to give the shots.
Parents who want to get free shots should call their school and find out when the mobile team visit is scheduled. They can also bring children who do not attend school, Holtrop said. Ayanah, who is on the waiting list for preschool at Biddle, didn't take her six shots too well. Amid soothing comments from her mother and the doctor that the shots would keep her from getting sick, the 3-year-old slapped her mother and bit one of the two Wayne State physician assistant students giving her the shots. Her mother, Arnetta Tumpkin, said she was relieved to find out about the free shots because her clinic could not find Arnesha's records. It also gave her an opportunity to update Ayanah's shots, too.
"This is really good," she said about the free shots. "Because some people don't have a way to the clinic or insurance."
Contact CHASTITY PRATT at 313-223-4537.
Copyright © 2004 Detroit Free Press Inc.