Sharon Brown sat with her 13-year-old daughter, Totsianna, and two granddaughters in the quiet of a clinic Monday at the Richmond County Health Department. She knew it was just the quiet before the storm.
When the girls get shots, “Trust me, the whole building will hear,” Brown said.
She was there for the first day of the Back to School Clinic, which runs from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays through Aug. 10. The busiest time is that last week and even the first day of school registration Aug. 9, said Purity Cummings, the child/adolescent health clinic nurse manager.
The clinic allows children to get the exams and immunizations they must have to attend school, and some need a number of shots, she said.
“We have to catch up quite a few of them,” Cummings said. “It’s just because the parents don’t know. Some physicians don’t even carry vaccines anymore.”
After peaking at 84.7 percent in 2004 and 2005, the number of children in Georgia 19 to 35 months old who had the required 14 shots dropped precipitously to about 71 percent in 2009 before climbing last year to 73.9 percent, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health and the National Immunization Survey. More than 77 percent of those children in South Carolina had full coverage in 2010.
Part of the problem might be fears about vaccines that have been disproved, Cummings said.
“We get quite a few questions about that,” she said.
Though the young children are sometimes a problem, many who are 11 and older are not getting recommended shots for pertussis, HPV and meniningococcal disease, Cummings said. A recent epidemic of pertussis in Washington state, where children ages 10, 13 and 14 were among the hardest hit, shows the importance of those shots and the need to perhaps start the pertussis booster as early as age 7, she said.
“We might need to start hitting them younger,” Cummings said.