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Greenwich Parents Urged to Vaccinate Their Kids

GREENWICH, Conn. -- Sarah Shaw squeezed her eyes shut Saturday as a nurse held her arm in one hand and a needle at the in the other. Shaw was about to get a shot in preparation for her freshman year at Chapman University in California.

"One, two, three..." the Greenwich resident said through gritted teeth–nurse Crystal Clemente had told her to count to three so she'd know when the shot was coming, but the vaccine was already in her arm before she got to "three."

"Oh, you already did it?" Shaw said in surprise, opening her eyes as she sat in the vaccination room at Scarsdale Pediatrics, where she still goes for medical care although she moved from Bronxville to Greenwich about six years ago.

Shaw, 18, had only planned to get the meningitis vaccination, but Clemente offered her the hepatitis A shot as well. The second shot--the meningitis vaccine--wasn't so easy. Shaw winced in pain and said, "That one hurt."

College students living in dormitories are at a slightly elev--d risk of contracting bacterial meningitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control , which recommends freshmen be vaccinated against it. Although inoculations are safe and effective, some parents have resisted vaccinating their children in recent years, worried about the mercury-containing vaccine preservative thimerosal, or, for parents of younger children, that there may be a link between thimerosal and autism. The use of the preservative has been reduced to trace amounts in only some vaccines now, and the original study that claimed a link between vaccines and autism was exposed as a fraud , but parents' fears linger anyway, said Dr. Scott Bookner, of Scarsdale Pediatrics.

"College-age kids are good about getting the meningitis shots because they're aware of how serious that is," Bookner said. "The newer parents have a lot of fears, because babies get so many shots."

Shaw said she knew about meningitis and college kids, and said she'd seen commercials on TV explaining how meningitis is transmitted and urging college kids to get vaccinated.

"I know it's usually fatal, so we're supposed to get the shot. Plus, my mom made me do it," Shaw said.

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