Officials said parents often aren't aware the health departments offer childhood immunizations free to people of all income levels.
By NANCY TULLIS
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
LISBON -- Area health officials are focusing this month on a campaign to encourage parents to immunize children against childhood diseases by age 2.
"Elliot the Elephant," the Columbiana County Health Department's costumed mascot for the past seven years, visited county commissioners Wednesday to promote the health department's free immunization program.
In support of the health department's efforts, the commissioners proclaimed April 14-21 as National Infant Immunization Week in the county.
Barbara Knee, the health department's nursing director, said 98 percent of Columbiana County children in kindergarten through 12th grades have the required childhood immunizations. She said, however, that only about 65 percent of county children 0-3 are immunized.
Awareness: She said some parents may not be aware that the county health department here, as well as the Salem, East Liverpool and East Palestine city health departments, offer immunizations free to anyone, not only low-income families.
She said the health department and Family and Children First Council staff do have the "Welcome Home, Help Me Grow" programs where they do home visits soon after parents bring home a newborn. They provide parents with a packet of information about infant care, including the benefits of early immunization, Knee said.
Commissioner Jim Hoppel said, "It's important to note that the program is free -- to anyone."
She said the county health department is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday each week of the year. Parents are encouraged to schedule the immunizations, but walk-ins are also accepted, she said.
Parents who wish to take their children to city health departments should call for appointments, she said.
Free gifts: Knee said children who are immunized at the county health department will receive a free gift, and the family will receive a free pizza that evening.
Knee said "Elliot the Elephant" visits health fairs, schools and anywhere else he is invited to promote the importance of early immunizations.
She said the health department's mascot is an elephant "because elephants never forget, and we don't want parents to forget to have their children immunized."