Clinics provide childhood immunizations and physicals

By William K. Alcorn |


TINY EMILIE KOLENICH GOT HER BOOSTER influenza vaccine at a clinic at Boardman Park conducted by public health nurses from the Mahoning County District Board of Health.

Her parents, Jane Price and Michael Kolenich of Austintown, took their daughter, 7 months, to their family doctor for Emilie’s first shot. But, when it was time for the booster shot recommended by health officials for children under 9, their doctor was out of vaccine.

Price, a pediatric nurse at Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley, did what a lot of people do: She called the county health department.

As a consequence, Price and Kolenich came to the clinic at Boardman Park on Monday and Emilie got her shot.

Initially, everything was fine.

She was sitting on her dad’s lap with her mom and the nurse smiling on when the needle slipped into her arm. Emilie looked around for a few seconds, realized all was not well, and exercised her very healthy lungs.

Her tears were short-lived, however, and she quickly returned to her pre-shot smiling self.

Her mother was relieved, too, because she works in an environment with ill children and wanted to make sure Emilie was protected by the booster shot.

Public health is often called the safety-net provider, said Diana M. Colaianni, county health department nursing director, for people like Price and Kolenich, and others.

“We have found that with the changing times — with the loss of jobs and health insurance and more who are underinsured — people are looking for services,” Colaianni said.

As part of its Child and Family Health Services program, for which the health department receives a $264,000 grant from the Ohio Department of health, public health nurses conduct clinics in five locations around Mahoning County each month.

The nurses check immunization records to make sure children are up-to-date for their ages, and give shots if they are not. They also refer those who need physicals, which include hearing and vision screening, to physicians. Also, physicals are performed by the clinic pediatrician, Dr. Riffat Iqbal, the cost of which is based on a sliding-fee scale.

Clients can also receive nutrition counseling and help signing up for Medicaid. The care is comprehensive, Colaianni said.

In Emilie’s case, she received her flu shot with vaccine received by the health department through the Vaccine for Children program. The vaccine is free, but the health department charges $21.25 to administer the shot. All childhood vaccines are available.

“We accept Healthy Start and Medicaid, but no one is refused services because of inability to pay,” Colaianni said.

People can just show up at the clinics or call the health department to state their need and make an appointment.

“In this time of reduced funding, the county health department is probably the largest provider of childhood vaccines in Mahoning County,” Colaianni said.

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