Months after a highly-publicized whooping cough epidemic, officials are doubling their efforts to reach Portland-area parents who have until Feb. 20 to get their kids vaccinated or the children will be sent home from school.
Multnomah County is offering a series of free immunization clinics between now and then, designed to make sure every single family has access to shots so the kids can stay in class.
The clinics are Tuesday, Feb. 19, at the Portland State Office Building, 1st Floor
800 N.E. Oregon St., 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.;
And Wednesday, Feb. 20, at the East County Services Bldg., Sharron Kelley Room, 2nd Floor, 600 NE 8th St., Gresham, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Officials say letters are going out to more than 6,000 families around Multnomah County -- the final notice for kids in public schools, preschools, Head Start, kindergartens, private schools and certified child care and other facilities, says county spokeswoman Julie Sullivan-Springhetti.
Whooping cough is highly contagious and can be fatal to infants under 12 months. Also known as pertussis, whooping cough was contracted by 800 people in Oregon in 2012.
Dr. Paul Lewis, deputy health officer for Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties, stresses that immunizations help protect people of all ages.
"Oregon just had its biggest whooping cough year in 50 years and this adolescent booster is one of the critical tools to limiting the damage when these waves come around,'' Lewis said. "Protecting children and adolescents helps protect infants and pregnant women.''
About 118,000 children and students in Multnomah County must meet the school exclusion requirements each year, with 6.8 percent of students receiving exclusion orders, the Multnomah County Health Department reports. Less than 1 percent of county children were actually excluded from school in 2012 until they received the necessary vaccines.
The county spokeswoman says families with health insurance should see their regular medical provider; uninsured or underinsured families should contact the Multnomah County Health Department Community Immunization Program or attend one of the upcoming clinics.
The most important vaccines are for Hepatitis A, a two-part shot-treatment required for children 18 months through fourth grade; and the Tdap, a tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis booster required for children grades seven through 11.
Parents must bring letters they have received from the school or county health department and their children's immunization records to their providers or clinics.
For more information contact the Multnomah County Health Department Community Immunization Program at 503-988-3406 or click here http://web.multco.us/health/immunizations .