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FOR RELEASE: February 15, 2001
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

WIC and Immunization Programs Partner to Prevent Disease

Although childhood immunization levels are at an all-time high nationally, about 28 percent of Oklahoma's youngsters are still at risk for easily preventable diseases because they are not fully immunized by their second birthday.

An effort to improve that status is now underway via a joint focus at the Oklahoma State Department of Health between the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the agency's Immunization Program.

“We recognize that WIC is the single largest point of access to health services for infants and young children who are at the highest risk for low vaccination coverage,” said Tom Freeman, director of the OSDH WIC program. “When families apply for services, we try to determine if children are current on their immunizations. If not, we refer them to the local health department or their health care provider.”

President Clinton issued an Executive Memorandum in December 2000 that requires WIC programs to assess the immunization status of children under age 5 who are participating in WIC; however, Oklahoma's WIC program had already made more than 66,000 referrals to the Immunization program last year.

Freeman said the state should begin to see positive results from this effort. Studies show that linking immunization services with WIC improves vaccination coverage by up to 40 percent within 12 months.

For more information on WIC or immunization services for your family, contact your local county health department or call the statewide toll-free WIC hotline: 888-OKLAWIC (888-655-2942).

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