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Last Minute Shots Mean Long Lines At Health Clinics

A long line formed outside the Dallas County Health and Human Services building on Friday. Most were parents waiting to get their child immunized before the first day of school on Monday.

Schools require that students be up to date on all of their required shots, but the recent outbreak of measles in North Texas may also have prompted some parents to take immunization more seriously.

Health Department Directory Zachary Thompson said he’s concerned about parents who are reluctant to have their children get shots.

“There’s a pocket of homeschoolers or people other there who don’t believe in vaccinations and what we can see from the measles outbreak is the importance of getting our children immunized,” Thompson said. “The measles (mumps) rubella vaccine can really prevent these types of outbreaks.”

So far, 15 cases of measles have been reported in Tarrant County and five in Denton County. They've all been traced to Eagle Mountain International Church in northwest Tarrant County. The number of cases prompted state health officials to issue an alert. No cases of measles were reported in Texas last year.

Thompson said schools have done a good job of educating parents, but many still wait till the last minute.

“In May there’s no waiting,” he said. “You wait till Friday before school starts on Monday, the estimated time once you get in here could be another 30 minutes to an hour (and) you may have waited an hour outside.”

Jason Guthers, who stood in line with his daughter, Adrianna Garcia, said he was more worried about the heat than the measles since he and his daughter were up to date on their measles shots. They were there so she could get other vaccines.

But he was perplexed about the recent crop of measles cases.

“That is something scary,” Guthers said. “It’s just surprising there was a measles outbreak period if you ask me.”

So far, at least 5,000 children have visited the six county-run immunization clinics in August, according to Thompson. The main clinic on North Stemmons Freeway has averaged 300 to 400 children a day this week.

Parents who didn’t get their child vaccinated before school begins can still take care of business at any of the county-run facilities located around the city. The county’s website has detailed information about hours of operation and cost of the visit.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.