By Vanesa Brashier, firstname.lastname@example.org
Only a handful of people took advantage of the free measles vaccinations being offered by Liberty-Dayton Regional Medical Center, First Liberty National Bank and KSHN-FM Radio on Saturday. The final tally of immunizations administered was nine for MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and 25 for tetanus. Additionally, one child was updated on his or her immunizations.
While the numbers are disappointing, the bright side is that those who received the immunizations are now safe and may help spread the word that the vaccination process is simple and safe.
Shannon Rasy hopes that is the case. As administrator for Liberty-Dayton Regional Medical Center’s Rural Health Clinic, where the shot clinic was held Saturday morning, Rasy knows the dangers of a measles outbreak in Liberty County. Children younger than 5 are at the greater risk for developing complications as a result of measles.
These complications include ear infections, diarrhea, damage to the central nervous system, pneumonia and encephalitis (swelling of the brain). One out of every 10 children infected will experience permanent hearing loss and one out of every 1,000 cases results in death, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Though no cases of measles are reported in Liberty County at this time, there are seven reported cases in the Houston area, including neighboring Montgomery and Harris counties.
Through radio, print and online news and social media, information on the free shot clinic was sent out to thousands of Liberty County residents. The hospital even sent flyers home with 2,000 students from Liberty, Dayton and Hardin schools.
“We definitely tried to get the word out about the free shot clinic,” Rasy said.
When asked if the low turnout could be a positive sign that children are already immunized, Rasy said, “Maybe, and if that is true, that’s wonderful. The last report I heard was that Houston is only 80 percent covered. Our school nurses in Liberty County are good about sending the kids back for their vaccines. The daycares are good at keeping up with the shot records, too.”
The hospital clinic will continue to offer free measles shots while supplies last. The immunizations are not just for children. The CDC is now recommending that adults born before 1989 might need a booster shot as the MMR vaccination process in those days was different and left some adults at risk.
Additionally, the Rural Health Clinic has roughly 100 tetanus immunizations available at no cost to anyone. They were provided to the clinic through a federal program following Hurricane Harvey and will expire in August 2019.
Tetanus shots are supposed to be effective for 10 years, though Rasy recommends people receive booster tetanus shots every seven years just to be safe.
Tetanus can be contracted through a break in the skin allowing Tetanus bacteria in soil, manure or dust to enter the body. Once inside a person, the bacteria causes stiffness in the neck, jaw and other muscles, difficulty swallowing, irritability and spasms.
“The one we all know about is lockjaw. That’s the big one. It’s a spasm of the jaw muscles and causes the mouth to remain closed,” Rasy said. “It’s a very painful illness.”
Complications of tetanus are pneumonia, fractured bones, infections and pulmonary embolisms. Death occurs in 10-20 percent of people who contract the illness, according to the CDC.
“With hurricane season upon us, it’s best to go ahead and get your tetanus shot now. You want to make sure you are protected,” Rasy said. “The cleanup process of a hurricane, or brushing up against something or being hit by something while in standing water, puts you at risk. We want you protected before that point.”
People who want the tetanus booster shot will need to fill out a brief medical questionnaire of approximately 10 questions. There are no weigh-ins, blood pressure checks or other procedures before the shot is administered.
The free immunizations will be available Tuesday through Friday at the Liberty-Dayton Regional Medical Center’s Rural Health Clinic on Tuesdays through Friday. No appointment is necessary, though wait time will be impacted by the availability of medical staff. The clinic is located at 1353 N. Travis St., Liberty.