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FOR RELEASE: April 14, 2005
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Too Many Oklahoma Children Remain At Risk
National Infant Immunization Week, April 24 - 30

In the first 24 months of life, children need more than 80 percent of their vaccinations to protect them from diseases, disabilities, and death. Each year new and improved vaccines and ways to combine them are developed. These innovations improve the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and reduce the number of injections needed. However, Oklahoma children remain at risk because currently Oklahoma ranks 44th lowest in the nation in vaccination coverage of 2-year-old children, according to health officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).

This year National Infant Immunization Week - Vaccination Week in the Americas, April 24 -30, will target millions of children for the largest immunization drive in every country in the Western Hemisphere. Public health workers are preparing strategies, purchasing vaccines, and coordinating logistics for the largest immunization drive in the Americas. Over 35 countries in the Western Hemisphere are joining together to highlight the need for routine vaccinations and to promote access to health services for infants and children. These Pan American Health Organization countries were the first to eradicate smallpox in 1973 and polio in 1991.

“We want to keep the need for childhood immunizations at the top of the list for Oklahomans to remember and National Infant Immunization Week helps us do that,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Crutcher. “Most parents know that children need vaccines before they start school, but many people don’t realize that
babies are at risk from serious diseases, such as whooping cough, at birth and need
protection provided by vaccines starting at 2 months of age and continuing at 4, 6, 12, and 15 to 18 months. For example, 90 percent of all deaths from whooping cough are among children under 6 months of age and with proper vaccination we can prevent some of those deaths.”

The OSDH has developed a simplified childhood immunization schedule called “OK by One” which outlines a schedule for children to complete the primary series of vaccines in just four visits at 2, 4, 6, and 12 months of age. This schedule was developed to help increase the number of Oklahoma children immunized on time and will hopefully simplify what parents have to remember.

“We need to do better in Oklahoma to make sure children are properly vaccinated by age 1 under this new schedule. Using the “OK by One” program, we can cut the time frame in half, and hopefully, improve our childhood vaccination rates,” said Crutcher.
Vaccines are available for all children, even those without health insurance, through a federal program called, “Vaccines for Children” or through private health insurance. Many private doctors in Oklahoma participate in the “Vaccines for Children Program” and all county health departments in Oklahoma have vaccines available for children at no charge.

For information about the National Infant Immunization Week events planned in your area, or to find out more about childhood vaccinations, contact your local county health department.

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