Ty Brintnall, a 7th grader at Walt Morey Middle School, said he wasn’t nervous, even as his father Dan joked, “give him the biggest needle you have.”
Madeline Her, a 7th grader from Clear Creek Middle School, didn’t so much as flinch as a nurse pricked her arm.
Karlyn Kelley, a 6th grader at Rockwood Preparatory Academy, put a hand over her eyes and grimaced silently as the needle went in.
Almira Emma Occhi, age 2, played with a bouncy ball until she realized what was about happen, then she dissolved, inconsolable, into tears.
More than 80 kids passed through the Reynolds Middle School gymnasium on Saturday to get up-to-date on their immunizations, required by Oregon School Law before School Exclusion Day on Feb. 21.
To help families meet school immunization requirements, the County hosts immunization clinics during the month of February. Two additional clinics are scheduled for:
Multnomah County also offers immunizations throughout the year at the Communicable Disease Services Clinic downtown. Children ages 5 to 18 can also get vaccinations for no out-of-pocket cost at any of Multnomah County’s Student Health Centers.
Saturday’s clinic moved parents through a series of stations where staff checked records in the state immunization registry, pulled school exclusion letters, and identified which immunizations a child would need. Meanwhile, students gathered around a Steven Spielberg rendition of Roald Dahl’s childhood classic, the BFG.
Felix Hirte, a 1st grader at Alameda Elementary School, laughed as the Queen of England erupted into a fit of flatulation. He laughed even harder as the royal dogs were propelled through the ballroom on a wave of their own green gas. His little sister Rosie giggled along with him.
Their mother Shari Hirte brought them to the clinic because, she said, immunizations are really important. “I think we’re lucky to live in a country where you can actually get them,” she said. In her home country of Australia the government covers the full cost of vaccines and gives a rebate to parents when their children are fully immunized.
Out of pocket in the United States, the six vaccinations her two children needed this year would cost about $600. She has health insurance, however. But even if she didn’t, and couldn’t afford to pay, the clinic would provide her kids with the protection they need to stay in school.
When the family was called back to get their shots, Felix went first. He settled into a chair across from Multnomah County nurse Joan Coleman. He remained stoic through the first shot, but the second was too much. As he began to cry, so did Rosie, who knew she was next.
After soothing her son through two more injections, Shari picked up Rosie in her arms. “I love you Rosie, and I don’t want you to get sick,” she said. “So it’s important for you to get these shots. It’s going to be really, really quick.”
Lay’s potato chips and fruit-flavored Mentos waited for her afterwards, Shari promised.
Greyson Carrillo-Bobo fared better. The 6-year-old remembered his last vaccination hadn’t been too bad.
“The last one didn’t hurt,” he said. “They just stabbed me with a pencil.”
The kindergartner from Wood Elementary was scheduled for a host of immunizations — against whooping cough, polio, the flu and Measles, Mumps, and Rubella.
“His school noticed he was missing a few shots,” his mother Angela said. “I was like, ‘darn it!’ My new job doesn’t start until next month.” In the interim, the family doesn’t have insurance to cover the costs, she said. But the school office told her about the vaccine clinics, where she could get the shots without worrying about the cost.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s been really quick and easy.”
Just then a nurse called Greyson’s name.
“Let’s go get my shots!,” he said to his mother and hopped down off a folding metal chair.
“Let’s do it!,” his mother said, as Greyson slipped his hand into hers. He had some incentive to be brave — a new Lego set was his if he kept his cool.
“What are your favorite Legos?” nurse Sara McCall asked as she rolled up his sleeve.
“Ninjago,” he said, the green ninja, in particular.
“My boys like the red ninja, I think,” she said. She pulled out a square of wet gauze and began wiping Greyson’s upper arm. “This is alcohol. I’m just going to clean off your arm.” Then she pulled out the first syringe.
“Are you going to watch?” she said. “Or do you want to look away?”
“What happens if I look away?” he asked.
“Nothing. I like to watch,” McCall said.
“Me too,” Greyson’s mother Angela chimed in. And so he watched as McCall stuck a series of needles into his upper arm.
“Breathe, Greyson,” his mother coached. And so Greyson pursed his lips and blew out in big puffs. When it was done he rubbed his arm.
“Ouch,” he said. “Can I have a Band-Aid?”
“I’m so proud of you,” Angela said with a grin.
Nurse McCall offered Greyson his choice of stickers. He looked for Thomas the Tank Engine, his favorite car from the Railway book series.
“Thomas is the best,” he said, but finding none, he settled on a sticker of Percy the steam engine. “Percy is good too,” he said.