tampabay.com

'No shots, no school, no kidding'

By RITA FARLOW
Published July 18, 2007


With school starting two weeks later this year, Pinellas County parents have some extra time this summer to get their kids ready for school.

But by Aug. 21, incoming kindergarteners, seventh-graders and students new to the district must have all their shots or they risk being sent home.

"Every year on the first day of school, we have parents in our lobby who didn't believe it when we said, "No shots, no school, no kidding," said Health Department spokeswoman Jeannine Mallory.

Students who don't have up-to-date immunizations will be referred to their nearest Health Department center, all of which offer free shots, said Rita Becchetti, supervisor for school health services.

The Health Department's Dental Division will also give free dental exams and X-rays for kids next week at its centers throughout the county, and parents are encouraged to have immunizations done at the same time, Mallory said. Bring identification for the child and any immunization records, Mallory said.

"Now's the time, because the longer you wait, the longer you're going to have to wait," she said.

Kids can also get their shots at the annual Back to School Care Fair at the Johnnie Ruth Clarke Health Center on Aug. 4.

The yearly event is put on by the Junior League of St. Petersburg to get kids ready for the coming school year, president Ann Vickstrom said.

"We're targeting those people that may not have the medical or health insurance or may not have the out-of-pocket finances to pay for these services," she said.

More than 11 percent of Pinellas County youth don't have health insurance, the Florida Department of Health reports.

At the Care Fair, doctors and nurses from Bayfront Medical Center and All Children's Hospital will give physicals, the Lions Club will provide vision screenings, and the Pinellas County Dental Hygiene Association will offer dental exams, Vickstrom said.

Event organizers secured a $23,700 Weed and Seed minigrant this year to reach out to families in the Childs Park area. Part of the money is allocated for transportation, Weed and Seed coordinator Janis Ford said.

"One of the problems is getting the kids (from Childs Park) to that event," Ford said.

The Junior League is setting up van routes to be publicized in the Childs Park area in coming weeks, Vickstrom said.

The Junior League will also hand out up to 3,000 free backpacks filled with school supplies and 600 free bike helmets.

By the numbers

11.3 Percentage of Pinellas County youth 18 and younger without health insurance.

8.6 Percentage of white children 18 and younger in Pinellas County without health insurance.

28.4 Percentage of Hispanic children age 18 and younger in Pinellas County without health insurance.

13.6 Percentage of black children 18 and younger in Pinellas County without health insurance.

82.3 Percentage of 15-year-old Pinellas County Health Department patients who had untreated tooth decay.

7.7 Percentage of Pinellas County kindergarteners who were not fully immunized before school started, 2002-04.

Source: Florida Department of Health

FREE SHOTS, DENTAL EXAMS NEXT WEEK

Pinellas County students entering kindergarten and seventh grade, and students new to the district, must have their shots up to date or they will not be allowed into class when school starts on Aug. 21.

A certificate of immunization (DH680) from the Florida Department of Health must be on file at the child's school showing the dates when MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), DTP, polio, tetanus-diphtheria booster and hepatitis B series were given. For more information, call Rita Becchetti with Pinellas County schools at 588-6320, or view immunization requirements at www.pinellas.k12.fl.us/Choice/immunization.html.

The Pinellas County Health Department offers immunizations at no cost. Call your local center for details. Also, the department's Dental Division will also host its annual back-to-school event next week. Children 1 to 18 will receive free dental exams, X-rays and dental hygiene products while supplies last, and immunizations will be offered. Parents should bring the child's immunization records. Hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day:

Monday: Pinellas Park Health Center, 6350 76th Ave. N. Call 547-7780.

Tuesday: Largo Health Center, 12420 130th Ave. Call 588-4040.

July 25: St. Petersburg Health Center, 205 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N. Call 824-6975 or 824-6900.

July 26: Clearwater Health Center, 310 N Myrtle Ave. Call 469-5800.

July 27: Tarpon Springs Health Center, 301 S Disston Ave. Call 942-5457.

Another event includes a backpack

The Back to School Care Fair at the Johnnie Ruth Clarke Health Center, 1344 22nd St. S, will be held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 4. School-age children will receive free immunizations, medical exams, vision and dental screenings, and a backpack filled with school supplies. Parents should bring the child's immunization records and birth certificate if available. Call 895-5018.

All children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian to receive services at both of these events.