Parents play it safe as kids bare brunt of inoculations
Jonathan T. Lovitt
LOS ANGELES -- Ten-year-old Marc Segismundo lay face down on a cot
Thursday. A nurse pulled his pants down, exposing his bare bottom. Another
nurse swabbed the targeted area with alcohol.
Marc gritted his teeth, buried his face in a pillow and tensed at the needle's sting.
``All done,'' nurse Terry Miller said. Marc raised his head and smiled widely as
he wiped a small tear. ``It didn't hurt at all,'' the Ramona Elementary fifth-grader
Marc was one of the first of thousands of Los Angeles schoolchildren to be
inoculated with the anti-viral serum immune globulin after eating strawberries
tainted with the hepatitis A virus.
Worried parents accompanied many of the 140 children at Ramona who got the
injections. Almost 1,400 students are enrolled in the school.
Jesus Garcia came with his son, Miguel, 11. ``If Miguel needs it, he needs it,''
Garcia said. ``I don't want him to get sick later.''
After his turn, Miguel buckled his pants and bounded out of the makeshift clinic,
bragging his shot ``kinda felt good.''
``Any child who thinks they might have eaten the snack is being offered the
shot,'' said assistant superintendent Sally Coughlin.
School officials are urging parents to play it safe. Children too young to
remember whether they ate the fruit should get the shot. Immune globulin
injections usually have no side effects, but rarely, there can be allergic reactions.
Ramona Elementary, in Hollywood, was one of three schools that gave the
inoculations Thursday. By next week, 17 schools will have done so.
Epitope Inc., which owns the Andrew & Williamson Sales Co. plant that
distributed the strawberries, said it will pay for the inoculations in Los Angeles.
Even though school officials had sent home information packets, translated in
five languages, parents were still nervous and full of questions.
``Mostly they want to be assured that the immune globulin shot is the right thing
to do,'' said Linda Beck, Ramona's bilingual coordinator. ``If their kids ate the
snacks then they need the shots.''
Topping the list of questions, Beck said, is ``What if my child is already sick?''
``I tell them there's no way for any kids who ate the strawberry snacks to show
signs of hepatitis,'' she said. ``It takes much longer than this.''
Meanwhile, school officials acknowledged that one school served the tainted
strawberries Monday, three days after the district learned of the problem.
Brad Sales, spokesman for the superintendent, said an error was made in
transferring a list to a computer. ``The mistake was discovered Monday morning
but the snacks were served at breakfast before we could warn them.''
PHOTO, B/W, Bob Riha Jr., USA TODAY ; PHOTO, B/W,John Hayes, AP