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Berkeley health department gives shots galore

September 11, 1997

By DON AINES

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Schools opened two weeks ago, but the Berkeley County Health Department was wall-to-wall Monday with people waiting for immunizations.

Not all were children who didn't have the vaccinations required for school, according to Director of Nursing Eileen Renner. "I would say about one percent of children are delinquent or not up-to-date on their immunization schedule," she said.

Renner said more than 100 people, the vast majority of whom were children, were vaccinated on Monday afternoon, the time the health department devotes to immunizations. From January through August the department did 1,665 immunizations.

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In August, 253 pre-schoolers were immunized, Renner said. State figures show that 85 percent of the children in the county from birth to age 5 are immunized not by family doctors and pediatricians, but by the health department.

For the convenience of those who need vaccinations, Renner said the department set up a satellite center this month at the Hedgesville Volunteer Fire Co. From 9 to 11 a.m. Friday and Sept. 26, people can get immunized at the fire hall.

"We recognize that it is very difficult for people to get to the health department on Monday afternoons," she said. Renner hopes to switch the location of the satellite center to do vaccinations in the northern part of the county in October. The center would switch to the southern part of the county in November.

The Martinsburg Rotary Club and the Women's Connection at Martinsburg Hospital have been helping promote the satellite program, she added.

Renner explained there are a few reasons for the majority of children being vaccinated by the health department. One is the growth of health maintenance organizations, or HMOs. These plans cover the cost of vaccinations, but sometimes parents are charged for office visits, exams and administrative fees.

West Virginia law requires in-state insurance companies to pay for vaccinations, but out-of-state insurers and self-insured companies are not covered by the law, Renner said.

Another inducement for the uninsured or under-insured is that there is no fee for services at the health department.

"We deny no one. If you're a West Virginia resident, we'll do you," she noted. Even people from outside the county can get immunizations because Renner said the department doesn't want to miss an opportunity to get someone's vaccinations up to date.

Right before school starts is not the only time to think about vaccinations, Renner said. While infants are normally immunized against polio, diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus at 2, 4 and 6 months, they must also be vaccinated for those diseases after their 4th birthdays. They must also have two vaccinations for mumps, measles and rubella before entering school.

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