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IB Group Offering Surfers Free Vaccinations

Audio

Aired 4/20/09

A local non-profit group can’t convince surfers to stay out of the polluted water near Imperial Beach, so now it’s trying to at least keep them healthy. KPBS reporter Katie Orr has details.

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(Photo: Two surfers walk along the shore at Imperial Beach. Environmentalists say pollution from the Tijuana River makes IB the most polluted stretch of beach in the United States.

Katie Orr/KPBS )

Representatives of the IB based non-profit Wild Coast spent this past weekend at the beach signing up surfers for free hepatitis A vaccines at the Imperial Beach Health Center .

 

Ben McCue works with the group. He says anyone who surfs or goes in the ocean in IB regularly should get the shot, which is good for five years. That’s because the polluted Tijuana River empties out just south of the beach. McCue says at first his group tried to discourage people from going in the water when pollution levels were high. But he says that wasn’t very effective.

 

“We found it’s a much better strategy to tell people what health services are offered to them. If they do report ocean illness where can they go to get services. So, the Imperial Beach Health Center offers either free or heavily discounted treatment and vaccinations for people who report getting sick from the water here,” he says.

 

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(Photo:The Imperial Beach based environmental group WildCoast set up a tent near a popular IB surf spot to register surfers for free Hepatitis A vaccinations at the Imperial Beach Health Center.  Katie Orr/KPBS )

 

McCue says sending surfers to the health center is also a good way to gather more data about what effect the pollution is having on ocean users. Professional surfer Sean Fowler has been coming to Imperial Beach for about 13 years. He says there’s one reason he keeps coming back, despite the pollution. “Because the waves are really good. I guess it’s a sacrifice… Yeah, that’s probably why, because the waves are good.”

 

Fowler says he’ll probably sign up for a free shot. Wild Coast has received a grant that will provide12 hundred Hepatitis A vaccinations, which consist of a sequence of two shots.

 

Katie Orr, KPBS News

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