May 4, 2001

Vaccine practice offers free services

Featured Image

18-month-old Joshua Bridges cries as he gets four different immunizations from Kitty Miller, RN, left, during his visit to the clinic. Loretta Moody, a patient care technician, holds Joshua as he receives the shots. His mother Michelle winces in the background. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Vaccine practice offers free services

It may be Nashville’s best kept secret – free primary medical care for your child.

For 28 years and with little fan fair, Vanderbilt has been reaching out to the community to provide free clinic services for children under 6 years old. Funded through the National Institutes of Health and other grants, the service provides total primary medical care for newborns through the age of six. Well-child visits, sick visits, and childhood vaccines are provided. Children must join the clinic as infants and their siblings may enroll if they are under the age of six.

“There are no bills or costs involved,” explained Kitty Miller, RN. “We don’t bill insurance, nor are we concerned with insurance status.”

Miller said the program is perfect for families who could not qualify for TennCare and could not afford commercial insurance.

From colds, ear infections, rashes, and of course, immunizations, the clinic sees a little bit of everything. There are currently 130 children who are patients at the clinic. Having a small caseload helps to ensure service is a top priority.

“We know the children by name,” Miller said. “And we know what their needs are.”

Care is provided by nurses and nurse practitioners, who are supervised by Drs. Peter F. Wright and Kathryn M. Edwards, who are both professors of pediatric infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“Vanderbilt is on the cutting edge in research in the area of pediatric infectious diseases,” Miller explained. “And that’s a great asset for our clinic patients.”

The clinic does not cover the cost of prescriptions, specialty clinics, hospital admissions, special laboratory or radiological examinations or surgical procedures.

Opportunities do exist for parents to enroll their children in studies of new and investigational vaccines for common pediatric illnesses. For example, a current study involves a vaccine to help prevent ear infections, meningitis and pneumonia.

Miller stressed, however, that clinic patients do not have to participate in any studies.

“That is just an option that parents have,” she explained. “We make it available and many parents take advantage of it, while others do not.”

She added that the vaccines available at the clinic have been tested in other populations before they are used in the clinic, and that no serious illness or hospitalization has resulted from any of the vaccines given in the clinic.

The clinic is open Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and provides 24-hour on-call services by a physician or nurse practitioner for emergencies. Appointments are required and can be made by calling 322-2477.