Local News

Immunization program proves to be win-win for local family

When Maria Castillo decided to enroll her 2-year-old daughter, Pricilla, into the Immunize and Win a Prize program at her local clinic, the mother of two admitted she didn't know what that grand prize would be.

Date: 3/8/2010

Posted by United Methodist Mexican American Ministries on 3/11/2010


By SHAJIA AHMAD

sahmad@gctelegram.com

Maria Castillo (second from left) and her daughters, Briseida, 4, left, and Pricilla, 2, were the recipients of a $400 prize for their utility bills through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment's Immunize and Win a Prize contest. They are pictured with their nurse, Trudy Ortman, (right), at the United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries immunization clinic. (Maria Castillo (second from left) and her daughters, Briseida, 4, left, and Pricilla, 2, were the recipients of a $400 prize for their utility bills through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment's Immunize and Win a Prize contest. They are pictured with their nurse, Trudy Ortman, (right), at the United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries immunization clinic.)

So when she found out her family would be receiving $400 from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment in return for making sure Pricilla's vaccinations were up to date, the news came as a pleasant surprise.

"They just called me, but I was confused because I didn't put my name into any drawing," Castillo said. "But it was good news; $400 is a lot of help."

The Immunize and Win a Prize statewide campaign is designed to help protect children from vaccine preventable diseases by successfully immunizing them by age 2. Only health clinics and centers across Kansas that provide vaccines at no cost to children who might not otherwise be vaccinated because of inability to pay can take part in the program, and the United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries where Castillo has been taking Pricilla, and her other daughter, 4-year-old Briseida, has been participating for at least a few years, said UMMAM nurse Trudy Ortman.

Along the series of immunization visits, nurses hand out freebies to parents such as Tylenol, digital thermometers and sippy cups. The items are handed out based on the families' need, Ortman said. The Castillo family was one of only a few dozen Ortman said she could submit to be eligible for the program's grand prize, the utility bill assistance, because many families who come to get shots often don't return to the clinic because they may be transient families.

"And then sometimes we'll never hear from them again," Ortman said. "So we don't know whether they've followed up elsewhere with their shots or not."

Immunization rates have nearly doubled for children who participate in state health assistance programs such as Health Connect Kansas, Healthwave-19 and Healthwave-21 since the project was launched in 2003, according to Michael Parsons, a KDHE outreach coordinator. The program was then expanded statewide, Parsons added.

As a VFC office, UMMAM is able to offer its vaccinations for free or at reduced rates, which continues to serve as a big help to keeping her daughters timely immunized, Castillo said.

"I like coming here because it's not as expensive as a private clinic," she said. "I'll need to bring Pricilla back to get a few more shots in six months. She's not done yet!"