- The Washington Times - Monday, July 15, 2019



D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Monday that the city will be offering free measles, mumps and rubella vaccinations at clinics and doctors’ offices in all eight of the city’s wards.

Her statement even listed the names, addresses and phone numbers of all 42 sites — a godsend for immigrants and new parents who don’t know where to turn for help.

Of course, Miss Bowser explained why vaccinations against such communicable diseases as measles are important.

“Immunizations are the single most important way to protect families against serious and sometimes deadly diseases,” she said. “Vaccines are safe and effective, and free services are available in all eight wards. To protect the entire community, especially residents who are unable to safely receive the vaccine themselves, it is critical we get as close to universal vaccination as possible.”

She added that “while there have been no reported cases in the District, cases have been reported in Northern Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, states with high numbers of commuters to and from the District.”

The 2018-19 measles outbreak is a moving target, especially during tourism season and as parents scramble to get last-minute medical records together for day care providers, the new school year and athletic programs.

So I pretended to be one such parent Monday afternoon, and called a few of the sites listed on the mayor’s press release. I phoned two in Southeast and one in Northwest.

During my first call to Southeast, a recorded messenger made me wade through about seven minutes of his recorded voice explaining parking rules, bus routes and how to fill out forms for camp, school, sports and day care. When I learned only one call was ahead of mine, I fist-pumped the air. Alas — another round of recordings.

After all that, a woman answered and apologized for my wait and I asked, “Do you take walk-ins?” She replied, “No.” I asked if the child need to be accompanied by a parent, and she replied no. (Spooky, eh?)

I called the second Southeast site, and again asked about records and whether parents will need documentation and proof of immunization? Again the reply was no. But the physician does have “discretion.” (Whew.)

Next up, the Northwest site, whose recording offers so many services, telephone contact options and other assorted information I hung up. No “live” voice at all. I felt like I had just phoned the IRS or the FBI.

The D.C. government isn’t the only government offering free immunizations for measles and other highly contagious diseases — and that’s a very good thing. We are combating a global measles surge, and the World Health Organization and UNICEF both say we need to fight the problem with all deliberate speed.

But, as this public service courtesy of The Washington Times regarding Mayor Bowser’s “free” immunization service (delivered courtesy of the taxpayers and stakeholders who dole out the dough for the “free” #DontWaitVaccinate program) demonstrates, finding a live person at the other end of the line isn’t a sure thing.

Did anyone in City Hall even call to find out what actually happens when parents call a D.C. clinic to get that “free” vaccination for themselves or their child?

And shouldn’t it be the child’s parent who always gets to be the one who says yea or nay to a child’s health concerns? (Isn’t liability otherwise attached?)

The bottom line: A policy is effective, efficient and successful only if it works.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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