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For Release: September 21, 2010 
Contact: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Oklahoma’s Immunization Ranking for Children Improves

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) announced today that Oklahoma children are among the nation’s best protected children against vaccine-preventable diseases. 

According to the National Immunization Survey released recently by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oklahoma’s child immunization ranking improved in nearly every category including a second-best in the nation for hepatitis A.  For most other vaccines, Oklahoma was generally in the top 25 states nationally.

All states showed decreases in coverage rates for 2009 due to national shortages of Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type B) vaccine that have now been resolved. The Hib vaccine plays an important role in preventing children from developing a serious type of bacterial meningitis.

 “While it is good news for Oklahomans that our standing has greatly improved, we know that many children were not fully protected due to the Hib vaccine shortage,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline.  “We have an even better opportunity to more fully protect our children and communities against disease this year by building on last year’s track record.”

The percent of Oklahoma children fully protected against 10 deadly diseases dropped slightly from 71.7 percent in 2008 to 70.2 percent in 2009. Yet, only 15 states had a higher proportion of children covered in 2009 than Oklahoma.

“We’ve come a long way in a relatively short time in establishing a pattern for success,” said Don Blose, chief, OSDH Immunization Service. “It’s only been 10 years since our children were among the nation’s least vaccinated.  Many partners have helped us achieve this result. Special emphasis on immunization outreach by local county health departments and health care providers is paying off, though work is still needed.”

Blose said increased use of the OSDH immunization registry, good management of short Hib vaccine supplies and implementation of “OK BY ONE,” a simplified immunization schedule, were keys to Oklahoma’s improved standings this year.

National immunization rankings are based on the primary series of vaccines due by 18 months of age including four doses of DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccine), three doses of polio vaccine, one dose of MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine), three doses each of hepatitis B vaccine, one dose of varicella (chickenpox), and three-or-four doses of Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type B) vaccine depending on brand.

 “Vaccines are safe, effective and remain the best form of defense against many deadly diseases. Parents who refuse vaccines for their child are taking a risk, one with devastating consequences, not only for their child but also for others in the community. I strongly encourage parents who have questions or concerns about vaccines to consult with their health care provider,” said Cline.

Blose notes that future improvements in Oklahoma’s childhood immunization ranking will also depend on increased uptake of newer vaccines such as rotavirus and the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine.  “These vaccines offer tremendous benefits to children including protection from serious gastrointestinal disorders caused by the rotavirus and common causes of ear infections caused by pneumococcus bacteria.”

State health officials also note it sometimes only takes a small proportion of unvaccinated individuals in a community to open the door for vaccine-preventable diseases to return. Two years ago there was a national resurgence in measles.  This year, cases of whooping cough (pertussis), a potentially deadly disease for infants, is on the rise in some states.  Oklahoma has experienced no measles cases but is seeing an increase in pertussis reports in the southeast region of the state.

Blose said a new Tdap vaccine is available to reduce the risk of whooping cough for older children and adults.  New parents, grandparents and others in close contact with babies should especially seek out this new vaccine.

For more information about childhood immunizations or the new Tdap vaccine, contact your doctor, health care provider, or the county health department in your area.

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