August 17, 2010
Free Immunizations Offered at Jewish Schools, Shuls
Children can receive free immunizations at three locations in the Jewish community next week as part of a Childhood Immunization Campaign launched by Bikur Cholim Jewish Healthcare Foundation in collaboration with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
Bikur Cholim created this new program, in part, in response to a mumps outbreak that hit the Los Angeles Jewish community in May of this year. Sixteen cases of mumps have been reported in Los Angeles County this year, 12 of them in the Jewish community. Only seven cases of mumps were reported countywide last year.
Whooping cough, which can also be prevented by vaccine, was declared an epidemic in California this month. Six infants have died of the disease this year.
While no data exists specifically on the Jewish community’s vaccination rates, it is assumed Jews vaccinate at the same rate as the general population, according to Alvin Nelson El-Amin, medical director of the Department of Public Health’s immunization program. In Los Angeles, 92 percent of the population is immunized, El-Amin said.
While that is a good rate, it is declining, El-Amin said. In 2000, only 0.43 percent of kindergarten parents would not vaccinate because of personal beliefs. In the fall of 2009, that number more than tripled, to 1.42 percent.
Much of the decline is attributed to fears among parents that ingredients in vaccines can cause autism, a theory widely discredited by scientists and doctors.
Rabbi Hershy Ten, president of Bikur Cholim, believes the economic downturn is also affecting immunization rates, with families who are uninsured or underinsured not bringing their children for regular checkups and immunizations.
Free immunizations are available at clinics around the city, but Ten hopes that bringing the program to the Jewish community will make Jews more likely to take advantage of the service.
The MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine will be administered Aug. 23, 24 and 25 at Torath Emeth Academy on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles, Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills and Emek Hebrew Academy in Sherman Oaks. For details, visit bikurcholim.net.