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Port Arthur Health Department offering free back-to-school vaccines. Get the details.

The City of Port Arthur Health Department is providing free back-to-school vaccines for children ages 4-18.

Requirements include being enrolled in Medicaid, no insurance or underinsured. A participant must also not be a CHIP recipient.

Health Department Director Judith Smith said it is important for children going back to school to be up-to-date on their vaccines.

“We’ve been doing the vaccines at the health department and it’s all been by appointment since COVID, but since it’s almost back-to-school time we wanted to put that information back out into the community,” she said. “We don’t want people waiting until school starts, because usually it gets very crowded and we can’t do that this year. We need to make appointments and spread those out safely.”

Smith said the department wants to focus on school-aged children.

“We want to make sure that the kids, as far as appointments are concerned, we take care of them first,” she said. “Even though classes are starting virtually, they still need to be up to date with their vaccinations.”

Smith said immunizations are still important even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Vaccines have always been important whether we are going through a pandemic or not,” she said. “Immunizations are very important for children. Anytime a child is not immunized they can become susceptible to those communicable diseases.”

A post on the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases website highlighted the devastating effect another disease outbreak could have on society.

NFID President Patricia Whitley-Williams said we should not be so distracted by COVID-19 that we neglect general health.

“Immunization should be routine—otherwise, we may soon see outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in the U.S. and around the world,” she said. “Combined with another wave of COVID-19, the impact could be devastating for both individual families and the healthcare system at-large.”

Vaccinations protect against 14 serious childhood diseases, including measles, influenza (flu), tetanus, polio, and whooping cough (pertussis).

The Vaccine For Children program has already reported an overall decrease in children vaccinations during the pandemic.

Well-child office visits are down by about 50 percent, and while Smith said she can’t confirm that receiving vaccines helps fight susceptibility to COVID-19, many communicable diseases are known to lower immune systems.

“We don’t see a large portion of children getting the chicken pox anymore, or the measles, but they are still out there,” she said. “As a health care official, I know that vaccines are important and we need to get these kids their immunizations.”

The health department is doing vaccines by appointment only. The Immunizations Division is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Walk-ins will not be accepted at this time.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 409-983-8874.

Port Arthur reported 12 additional positive coronavirus tests Thursday including seven females, two between the age of 30-34, one in each category of 50-54, 60-64, 65-69 and two 80-84.

Five males tested positive with one each between 40-44, 50-54, 60-64, 65-69 and 70-74.

The additional numbers bring Port Arthur’s total of positive tests to 712.

As of July 30, 29 patients were released from quarantine between July 20-24.

Two deaths were recorded on Friday including one Hispanic Port Arthur resident between the age of 70-75 and one Nederland resident between 55-60. Both individuals had underlying health conditions.

This is the 14th COVID related death in Port Arthur and fifth for Nederland.

Smith said the numbers are steady.

“We haven’t done mass testing in Port Arthur recently, but this week was pretty steady with our numbers,” she said. “We are still receiving reports from local labs, hospitals, physician offices, so that’s where most of our reports are coming from now.”

The next mass-testing site will be available at Lamar State College Port Arthur at the Carl Parker Center, Aug. 4-6.

Walk-up testing on Aug. 4 is available from noon to 4 p.m., and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 5 and 6.

Smith said she’s hoping not to see a rise in cases after the mass testing.

“Hopefully the numbers won’t go up drastically,” she said.