Baby Day dental clinics adding vaccines for little ones

October 4, 2018

Laura Medina held her son Miguel Remigio on her lap. The boy, four months shy of his second birthday, wore pajama bottoms. A camouflage fleece drooped over his face.

“So what I’m going to have you do is hold him tight,” Summer Johnson told Medina. “He’s going to squirm once he knows what’s going on.”

Aliyael Diaz-Moreno giggles with her mom Liliana Moreno after getting her flu shot at the Baby Day Dental clinic in Gresham.

Miguel was due for a flu shot, and he cried out as Johnson stuck a needle into his thigh. But then it was over.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Johnson said. “All done!” Miguel’s mother kissed him, and Johnson offered a balloon and a Disney sticker.

Miguel was one of 11 clients who got their shots this week after a dental check up at the Baby Day clinic in Gresham. It’s part of a pilot launched this week through Multnomah County’s Community Health Centers to bring babies and toddlers up to date on their immunizations. The two-year pilot is sponsored by CareOregon Dental.

Immunizations will be offered to Baby Day patients who have an established primary care provider at a Multnomah County health center and who are missing necessary immunizations. Dental staff reach out to parents and invite them to stop by the vaccine station.

“My son is around other children and it felt like the appropriate thing to do,” said Carrie Copeland, who brought in her 16-month-old son, Lucas Starks.

County primary care clinics serve more than 50,000 patients each year; about 3,000 of them are younger than 4. A recent analysis found that nearly 20 percent of children seen through the Baby Day dental program were not up-to-date on needed vaccines. This project aims to make it easier for parents to get children back on schedule, without requiring additional appointments. The goal for the project’s first year is to vaccinate 80 percent of the children eligible for vaccines.

“The goal is to offer this on an ongoing basis, so we can continue to address more than just the client’s mouth but their whole body,” said Courtney Kappes, who oversees the School and Community Oral Health Program. “The more we can offer our clients one-stop care, the better.”

The dental Baby Day program familiarizes the county’s youngest clients with healthy dental care, while parents get tips on brushing, nutrition and bottle use.

“The Baby Day program offers a great environment to reach lots of little ones at once,” said Aron Goffin, senior program specialist and immunization integration project manager.

Veronica Ramirez agreed. She was the first mother to arrive Tuesday, with her son, Ivan Navarrete. By the time other toddlers came in, Ivan was happily gripping a blue balloon decorated with a Daffy Duck sticker.

He had just had his teeth cleaned and treated with fluoride; the grownups peering into his mouth had startled him, and he’d cried a bit. Then he got his flu shot, and he cried a bit more. But, it was important to do, Ramirez said.

“In March, he got really sick. About 3 in the morning, he was so congested he couldn’t breath. We took him to the hospital,” she said. But this season, she’s hoping the flu shot will keep him safer.