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St. Joseph Family Medicine offers vaccines to its patients
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Little Claudia Garcia, 1, daughter of Raul and Misty Garcia, receives her sippy cup vaccination reward from Charise Oelger, physician assistant, at St. Joseph Family Medicine.

When Becky Mooney, LPN, was given the ball and asked to run with it, her goal line was a program that provides immunizations to eligible families at no cost. The result is participation in the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program at St. Joseph Family Medicine (SJFM).

St. Rose Ambulatory & Surgery Center owns SJFM. Cherie Morris, M.D. in family medicine with obstetrics, and Charise Oelger, physician assistant, share the practice, which is accepting new patients.

"This great program offers free immunizations to children who might not otherwise be vaccinated because of inability to pay," Mooney said. "It is designed for the uninsured and the under-insured, and it fits perfectly with our mission to serve all children from birth to age 18.

"We used to have only a few of the basics, such as flu and tetanus vaccines," Mooney added. "Now we have it all. Since Dr. Morris specializes in family medicine with obstetrics, we want to offer as many services as possible for children."

In the past, the SJFM clinic referred many vaccinations to other facilities, which meant the inconvenience of making another appointment, Oelger noted.

"But now, while they are here for a well-child checkup, we can vaccinate at the same time," she said. "We have everything on hand for their convenience."

The vaccinations available to SJFM patients – with or without insurance - include influenza, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, hepatitis A and B, pneumococcal disease, varicella (chickenpox), rotavirus, Hib, gardasil for HPV, menactra for meningitis and zoster for shingles.

"These diseases are very preventable," Oelger said. "If a vaccine is not given, some can become life threatening. There are recent stories of children who didn’t have the pertussis vaccine dying from whooping cough.

"We just want to do what is in the best interest of the children and their families," she continued. "Keeping our children healthy and safe is our priority, and the benefits of vaccinations far outweigh any risks."

Oelger also noted that parents sometimes shy away from vaccines because a child is sick. However, there are only two situations in which a vaccine shouldn’t be given – a full body rash or a temperature of 103 or higher.

Some injections are given in combination, with the goal being the fewest number of shots possible. "We understand parents are concerned about the number of injections," Oelger said. "But a few seconds of discomfort by getting them all at once is really nothing for the protection of keeping a child healthy."

The VFC program is federally funded but administered through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). Its incentive program, Bee Wise – Immunize, offers free gifts at vaccination times. For example, when the child is 2 months old, the gift is a thermometer and Tylenol; at 4 months, hand sanitizer; at 6 months, hand wipes; and 1 year, a sippy cup.

Once the series of shots is complete at age 2, SJFM will submit an entry to KDHE on behalf of the patient who could win a $400 voucher to be used on the utility bill of the parents’ choice. There is an annual winner from each clinic that participates.

"These are nice incentives," Oelger said. "All of us want to do anything we can to vaccinate children with what they need when they need it. We want to be proactive and help families stay on the vaccine schedule."

She also noted that SJFM will help adolescents and adults stay on track for their vaccinations.

For more information, contact SJFM by calling 620-792-3345.