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FOR RELEASE: August 21, 2002
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
405/271-5601

Oklahoma’s Immunization Rate Improves, But More Progress Needed

Oklahoma’s immunization rates for young children are showing remarkable improvement, according to a survey released earlier this month by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The National Immunization Survey shows that 77 percent of Oklahoma children ages 19 months through 35 months were fully immunized against seven diseases in 2001. This represents a 5 percent increase over the previous year's 72 percent and vaults Oklahoma’s ranking from 49th to 32nd in the nation.

National rankings are based on a vaccine series that includes four doses of diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccine, three doses of polio vaccine and one dose of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.

The recent rankings posted Oklahoma just below the national average of 78.6 percent and just 8 percentage points away from being in the top five states.

State health officials credited several reasons for the improvement, including newly formed partnerships with businesses and organizations and increased efforts by medical providers to make sure that fewer children go unprotected.

“So many good things are happening for our kids,” said Don Blose, director of the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s Immunization Service. “We’ve been near the bottom for so long that it is great to see how so many Oklahomans are coming together to get behind our children.”

For example, Blose cited several partnerships in the immunization effort, including Cox Communications, who worked with the state health department in the fall of 2001 to develop the statewide “Immunize Oklahoma” campaign, and has donated a series of public service announcements promoting immunization. “Their effort helped increase awareness with the general public about the need for immunizations, and the threat posed by certain diseases,” Blose said.

In addition, McDonalds recently began a regional immunization awareness campaign, and several Sonic restaurants offer coupons to children who have been immunized. Health officials hope that more business and media participation promoting health issues around the state will help get the word out about the need for childhood immunizations.

"We congratulate the many community partners and businesses that are joining our efforts to promote immunizing children against diseases. Our goal of being at the top is much closer but we still have a long way to go,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Leslie Beitsch. “Because of increased community outreach, we now have a greater percentage of children being protected from vaccine-preventable diseases," he noted.

Health officials continue to urge for the enlistment of other groups, individuals or businesses to help. “Although the rates are up, we still have nearly one-in-four children who are not completely protected from vaccine preventable diseases,” Blose emphasized. Organizations or persons wishing to help promote childhood immunizations are urged to contact the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s Immunization Service at (405) 271-4073.

“We are hopeful that the recent news on immunization is just a reflection of other positive changes occurring in our state’s health picture,” said Beitsch. “The partnerships being formed to make sure children are immunized are a great example of the difference Oklahomans can make when we work together.”

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