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Local News

Escambia County Clinics Offers Vaccinations & More

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While students are enjoying their summer vacation, health care workers are busy reminding parents that kids should be up to date with their vaccinations before the new school year starts.

The state of Florida has a program with a very straight forward name: Vaccinations for Children. It’s designed to make sure no child goes without these lifesaving immunizations. "That's for children, regardless of their ability to pay, if they have health insurance, if they don't have health insurance or if their insurance doesn't cover certain vaccinations. So the VFC program will subsidize those vaccinations to make sure the children of the state of Florida are vaccinated" said Sandra Donaldson, the Director of Special Programs for Escambia Community Clinic. She says the program is open to children ages zero to 17. "Predominantly from zero to four years old is the highest as far as the time line for vaccinations. Children are most vulnerable physically from zero to four years old. So most of the vaccinations are done during that time in their life."

Since the early 1990s, Escambia County Clinics have provided outpatient primary care services to the medically needy, uninsured, underinsured, and working poor citizens of the region. ECC has grown to be the primary medical home for thousands of area residents. "We do a lot of community outreach. We physically go out to the community and we stress health care. And when it comes specifically to vaccinations we have done a few outreaches from last year back to school events, we've partnered  with Healthy Start, we will be going to Century on July 28. We will be taking our medical van out there with our staff giving free vaccinations for children in that area. We can pull each child's individual schedule up on line to see where they are (with vaccinations) and get them caught up if they have not had them"

Donaldson says in addition to the mobile van, Escambia Community Clinics and other health care providers offer childhood vaccination through the state Vaccination for Children program in several permanent locations. "Escambia Community Clinics has five pediatric sites, including Lakeview Pediatrics, Santa Rosa county, their community clinic is [affiliated with] ECC, they have pediatric services with VFC, Weis Community School is now on the Vaccinations for Children program with ECC." Donaldson also says they have locations at Lanza Pediatrics and First Up pediatrics, and the Florida Department of Health and most medical offices qualify for the VFC program and offer immunizations for children.

And while Escambia Community Clinics offers vaccinations services, that just a small part of the service they provide. Dr. George Smith, the Chief Medical Officer of Escambia Community Clinics. He says the clinic has become a medical home for low income people in the region. They offer walk in clinic services as well as long term help for chronic illnesses. "We provide care to anyone, regardless of their ability to pay. " Dr, smith says patients have access to financial advisors who will help them with medical expenses. Some may even qualify for free care.

ECC offers urgent care services as well as treatment for chronic conditions. Dr. Smith says diabetes and hypertension are the most common conditions he sees. "[Those are] our 'big, big hitters'. We are seeing more diabetes than ever before and hypertension and they tend to go hand in hand." 

Smith says they also treat a lot of asthma, COPD, arthritis and back pain. And, of course, vaccinations. Escambia County Clinics’ Sandra Donaldson has an important reminder to all parents of school age children. "Children that are not vaccinated cannot start school."

The first day of the new school year is August 10.