Parents play it safe as kids bare brunt of inoculations

  Jonathan T. Lovitt


  USA Today


  Page 03A

  (Copyright 1997)


  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