Vaccines are the most effective way to protect yourself from potentially life-threatening diseases, but the number of people in Louisiana getting vaccinated is dropping. There is a low cost immunization program in Southwest Louisiana aimed at reversing those numbers, called "Shots for Tots."
It is a moment that 15-year-old Kate O'Neal has avoided. "It just hurts," she said, moments before getting a shot. But with her mother, West Calcasieu-Cameron nurse Christa O'Neal on the other side of the shot, the time has come! "Sometimes she lets me put it off for a little while, but I can never fully avoid it," said Kate.
Kate is getting the HPV vaccine through Shots for Tots at WCCH. Christa is the director of the program that provides a range of immunizations for a flat $10 fee, all to encourage more people to protect themselves. "We definitely have become a generation of being more scared of side effects of vaccines than we are actually of the disease itself," said Christa.
Vaccines have helped make once life-threatening illnesses like measles and mumps uncommon, but the immunizations must start early. "The first vaccines are actually recommended at birth. It is the hepatitis B vaccine. After that, it is at the two month old visit," said Christa.
Infants go through several rounds of shots, then kids and teens again before going to school and at certain ages, like Kate.
Over the past few years, statistics show that the number of immunized people across the state has dropped from about 90 percent to about 79 percent. That is something that could turn deadly as more people are at risk to contract potentially dangerous infections and viruses. "The potential for an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease becomes high," said Christa.
That is why Shots for Tots is keeping this program alive, to keep spreading a message that Kate knows well. "It prevents you from getting sick and it prevents others from getting sick," she said.
Shots for Tots offers vaccines for infants ages six weeks on up to adults. Clinics are held across Calcasieu Parish for $10. They are the first Saturday of every month at WCCH in Sulphur. The first Saturday of odd months at the Vinton Medical Clinic. And the second Thursday at Moss Bluff Dynamic Dimensions. You need to bring your most current shot records.