The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department will participate in Child Health Day on Monday by focusing on immunizations for children ages 2 and under.
"What we're trying to do is just get people to realize that they can get their babies immunized at a low cost," said Elaine Houston, immunization nurse at the health department. "Even if they can't pay, nobody's denied when they come in."
Houston said early childhood immunizations are being emphasized because "infants and small children tend to have more complications from the diseases than older children would."
"Older children can sometimes handle them better," she said.
Houston said the U.S. Public Health Service targeted 1990 to eliminate measles in the United States through childhood immunizations, as smallpox had been in 1980. Yet in 1990, almost 28,000 cases of measles were reported in the United States, and 89 children died.
Other potentially fatal childhood diseases include pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, and diphtheria. One of every 200 babies who suffer from pertussis dies from it. About one of every 10 people who get diphtheria and three of every 10 people who get tetanus die.
Houston said recent studies showed that only 68 percent of children younger than 2 in Douglas County have received their complete immunization series. As a result, the county has experienced outbreaks of whooping cough and measles in recent years.
"It's sad that any child has to suffer with these `common childhood diseases' when there are vaccines available to prevent them," Houston said.
Effective childhood vaccines exist for nine childhood diseases. Children should be vaccinated against measles, mumps, rubella, polio, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hemophiles influenza type B and hepatitis B through a series of shots beginning as early as birth.
Kansas law requires that children be vaccinated for all of those diseases except for influenza and hepatitis before they enter school. However, the health department urges parents not to wait until their children enter school to vaccinate them because infants and toddlers are at the highest risk for complications from disease.
Every $1 spent on early childhood immunizations saves $10 in later medical costs, Houston said.
The immunizations are available on a walk-in basis, Monday through Friday, at the health department, 336 Mo. For more information, call 843-0721.