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FOR RELEASE: April 17, 2001
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

28 Percent of Oklahoma Infants at Risk for Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Oklahoma's immunization rate for 2-year-old children is 72 percent, placing it next to last among the states for immunization of infants. About 28 percent of infants and toddlers in Oklahoma continue to be at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases. Almost one million children in this country live without the benefit of being fully immunized, which increases the danger of serious illness and even death for those children.

During National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW), April 22 – 28, public health officials are reminding parents to get their children immunized in a timely manner to help protect their health. Seventy percent of children's vaccinations are needed in their first two years of life to protect them from diseases, disabilities, and death.

“Too many Oklahoma children are not fully protected against diseases that are easily prevented,” said Don Blose, director of Immunization Services, Oklahoma State Department of Health, Disease and Prevention Services. Blose added, “Young children, especially, need these shots because their immune systems are not fully developed. Immunizations give their immune systems the needed boost.” Nearly 70 percent of childhood immunizations are due by age 2 years.

The National Immunization Program advises that the United States measles epidemic of 1989-1991 affected more than 55,000 people; 11,000 were hospitalized and about 130 died. A major cause of the measles epidemic was the failure to vaccinate children on time at 12 to 15 months of age. Oklahoma had 284 measles cases between 1989 and 1991, with one death.

In 1996, Oklahoma was ranked number one in the country for cases of hepatitis A, another vaccine-preventable disease. The number of cases has continually declined since then, from 2,586 cases in 1996 to 273 cases in 2000. Oklahoma began requiring the hepatitis A vaccine for children entering kindergarten and 7th grade for the 1998-1999 school year. People with hepatitis A infection often have to be hospitalized, and in rare cases hepatitis A causes death.

A parent or legal guardian must accompany children receiving immunizations, and the child's immunization record must be presented. For more information about the benefits of childhood immunizations, or to get your child immunized, check with your health care provider or county health department.

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