Vaccines by appointment

April 24-30 is World Immunization Week, and Highland County Health Department Director of Nursing Bonnie Rusch spoke with The Times-Gazette about precautions the health department is taking as it begins taking appointments for childhood immunizations and adult boosters.

“The best way to not get a disease is to prevent it,” Rusch said. “Most of the childhood immunizations protect against diseases that can cause death. A lot of times these immunizations protect them for life, but there are some that you need to have boosters with as well.”

Like many other public health entities, the Highland County Health Department postponed routine vaccines offered through its immunization program in an effort to protect the public and its staff from the new coronavirus.

In a press release, the director of the CDC’s Center for Global Health, Dr. Rebecca Martin, called such decisions “important and responsible.”

“As the world unites against COVID-19, we are reminded of how quickly emerging and new diseases can spread when there is no immunity against them or a vaccine to prevent them. However, for many of the world’s most dangerous vaccine-preventable diseases, we are seeing an increase in the number of individuals infected and in the number of deaths worldwide. Outbreaks of measles, diphtheria, yellow fever and other vaccine-preventable diseases are on the rise in recent years,” Martin said. “As we continue to unite to respond to the pandemic of COVID-19, we must also continue to prepare to intensify our immunization efforts, when it is safe to do so. These efforts are to build resilient health systems, so that vaccines can be delivered to everyone everywhere.”

As the health department prepares to reopen its immunization program on May 5, Rusch told The Times-Gazette that it is taking every precaution to protect Highland County residents due for vaccines.

Beginning May 5, Highland County residents will be able to get vaccinated by appointment only on Tuesdays through Fridays. Rusch said health department staff will take insurance information over the phone before the appointment in order to cut down on the time each patient spends in the office. Staff will schedule appointments to limit the number of people in the office at one time. Only one adult and one child will be permitted in the office for each appointment.

Health department staff will wear masks, and Rusch said the health department is requesting that patients and guardians who have cloth masks available wear them while they’re in the office. Items like bandanas are also helpful, so long as your nose and mouth are covered.

The health department will also take patients’ and guardians’ temperatures before they enter the building. Those with a temperature above 100.4 will be asked to go home and monitor for symptoms. Rusch said anyone who feels sick should stay home to prevent the spread of diseases. Appointments can be rescheduled.

Exam rooms will continue to be thoroughly sanitized after each patient, as they were before the COVID-19 outbreak, Rusch said.

Even with these precautions, Rusch acknowledged that some Highland County residents may not feel comfortable leaving their homes yet but warned against waiting too long to schedule an appointment.

“We always have a big rush for the back-to-school shots. If you make an appointment, we can get you in and out without having a big crowd,” Rusch said. “Don’t wait. Just give us a call, get in here, and we’ll get you or your child vaccinated.”

Many health insurances cover the full cost of vaccines, Rusch said. For those without health insurance, vaccines typically cost $10 each.

To make an appointment or for further information, call the health department at 937-393-1941.

The health department is located in the North High Business Center in Hillsboro at 1487 N. High St., Suite 400.

It can also be found on Facebook.

Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.

Health Department prepares to reopen immunization program

By McKenzie Caldwell