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Nearly 3,000 children received free immunizations last year in the "Immunization Care-A-Van." But more than half of the state's children still need the vaccinations.

The Care-A-Van will again travel across the state to provide vaccinations, including DTP, DT, DTaP, Td, polio, MMR, HiB and hepatitis Bs, according to Utah first lady Jacalyn Leavitt. Leavitt kicked off the new campaign during a press conference Tuesday morning.Despite the great response, "it's still a major concern," she said.

Last summer the vehicle, donated by Intermountain Sports and equipped as a mobile clinic, visited 21 sites and provided 6,700 free immunizations to 2,600 children. Of those, 31 percent were overdue for vaccinations.

The traveling clinic increases education and access to immunizations, particularly for people who cannot afford to pay for them. The shots are also available, based on ability to pay, from local health departments, said Rod Betit, director of the state Department of Health.

While the Care-A-Van "hasn't been a magic bullet," it has been the "centerpiece" of the state's efforts to get all children immunized against childhood illnesses, Betit said.

It is also an example of teamwork, according to Pamela Atkinson of Intermountain Health Care. IHC provides the medical personnel and supplies to administer the immunization.

"Health care has got to focus more and more on prevention," Atkinson said. "We are not just here to cure, but to prevent.

"The immunization campaign will prevent serious and critical illnesses."

The mobile vaccination campaign began last year in response to a study showing that only 46.5 percent of Utah's 2-year-olds were properly immunized. A task force, chaired by Leavitt, has studied ways to increase awareness and make the vaccinations more affordable and readily available.

The Health Department provides the vaccines, technical support and tracking. Smith's Food and Drug Centers provide locations, logistical support and promotional assistance.

Other participants in the program include Merck Pharmaceuticals, the Ogden and Salt Lake Junior Leagues, local health departments in Weber, Morgan, Salt Lake, Davis and Utah counties, the Bear River District Health Departments, Kiwanis clubs, KTVX and Primary Children's Medical Centers.

Parents are asked to bring their children's immunization records with them to the Care-A-Van. To find out more, call 975-4498.