- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 8, 2000

Thousands of District schoolchildren are not up to date on their immunizations, and more than 18,000 live without benefit of health insurance. It's Wise to Have Healthy Kids, a campaign of Children's National Medical Center, aims to address both problems this month.

Children's will host a Family Fun Day Oct. 21 to provide free immunizations and offer access to health care by enrolling children and their parents in the Children's Health Insurance Program. The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Children's Health Center, 2501 Good Hope Road SE. It will feature free food, games, prizes and health screenings.

"We have so many children in the D.C. public schools who are not immunized," says Ellie Runion, director of advocacy and community affairs for the medical center. "We are quite concerned about the problem."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every 2-year-old child should have a vaccination record that includes the hepatitis B series; the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP) series; Haem-ophilus influenza type b (Hib); polio; the measles, mumps and rubella series; and varicella (chicken pox). Although U.S. vaccination coverage is at record high levels, the CDC reports, scores of cases of potentially preventable influenza, pneumococcal disease and hepatitis B occur each year.

"Although it is a law that children can't be in schools without a complete vaccination record, principals are reluctant to send the children out on the street," Miss Runion says. "They do plan to begin to adhere to the letter of the law, so we're trying to help get it taken care of."

"There's a big gap" between parents and schools, says Joyce Jamison, assistant superintendent of school support services for the District of Columbia Public Schools. "We are trying to do all we can to support our principals and get the word out to the parents. So often, parents feel that [the immunizations'] initial completion does it for a lifetime, but boosters are needed, and parents need to remember to revisit" the issue.

Miss Runion says parents who wish to have their children vaccinated at the Oct. 21 event should bring their children's up-to-date immunization records. Health care professionals also can search District public-health databases or will consider a child's personal history to deter-mine where a child should be in the immunization schedule.

Parents seeking free or low-cost health insurance for their families through D.C. Healthy Families should present Social Security numbers for themselves and their children. Proof of District residency is required and may be obtained by presenting a pay stub or last year's income-tax record.

The District offers free immunizations to residents on an ongoing basis. Parents may call the Division of Immu-nization at the D.C. Department of Public Health at 202/576-7130 for the locations of public-health clinics throughout the city.

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