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FOR RELEASE: April 14, 2003
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications

Assistant Surgeon General Walt Orenstein, M.D. Kicks Off National Infant Immunization Week in OKC

Assistant Surgeon General Walt Orenstein, M.D., Director, National Immunization Program, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), kicked off National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW) at a day care center in Oklahoma City today by urging parents and physicians to improve childhood immunization rates by increasing the number of infants receiving their 4th dose of DTaP vaccine by their second birthday. In addition, Dr. Orenstein asked more hospitals and physicians to administer the hepatitis B birth dose and file standing doctors orders with hospitals to give the hepatitis B birth dose, as an effort to help improve the health of Oklahoma’s infants.

The State of Oklahoma and City of Los Angeles are the only two sites being highlighted nationally during NIIW. Today, the Oklahoma City kick-off program will be at St. Luke’s Methodist Church Child Development Center. Tomorrow, Dr. Orenstein will unveil a new national poster, “Protect the Circle of Life; Immunize Our Nations.” The poster is designed for Native American and Alaska Native populations and reflects the importance of infant immunization as well as the importance of vaccinations occurring throughout the life span. Dr. Orenstein will officially roll out the poster in Talihina at a 9:30 a.m. ceremony tomorrow at the Choctaw Nation Health Center.

“As parents, we want basic things for our children. We want them to grow up knowing that they are loved and we want to provide them with opportunities to reach their full life potential. As part of that, we want them to be healthy and happy. Vaccinations are one way that parents can protect their child’s health and in turn protect the health of the community,” Dr. Orenstein said.

“The Oklahoma theme, I’m Prized, I’m Immunized, places emphasis on the love and protection parents can give to their children when they take the time to follow up on immunization records. A decision to vaccinate a child not only protects the individual, but also the community, by reducing the spread of disease to those who have not been vaccinated either by choice or due to a medical reason, such as children with leukemia,” Dr. Orenstein said.

“I want to encourage Oklahoma health care workers to continue building partnerships and coalitions with government to promote childhood vaccination. Day care centers and elementary school staff as well as hospitals and physicians all play a part in improving the health of a community and a state,” Dr. Orenstein said. “While I am in Oklahoma, I will share information about procedures and plans for physicians to make a difference in meeting our goal to fully immunize all children against vaccine preventable diseases.”

The health department has set the following goals to increase immunization rates in Oklahoma:

  • To increase public awareness about infant immunizations to parents, day care centers and health care providers.
  • To bring the immunization rate in Oklahoma to 90 percent compliance, up from the current 77 percent.
  • To increase the number of children receiving their 4th DTaP shot by the second birthday.
  • To increase the number of Oklahoma birthing hospitals administering the birth dose for hepatitis B.

“Oklahoma currently ranks 32nd in the nation in fully protected infants. We plan to continue the efforts to improve our record and move into the top rankings over the next few years,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Leslie Beitsch.

The following includes more information about the vaccine-preventable diseases that are receiving attention during National Infant Immunization Week:

  • Hepatitis B is a serious infection of the liver that is caused by the hepatitis B virus. It is spread by direct contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person. Many infected persons have no symptoms while others may experience loss of appetite; tiredness; pain in muscles, joints, or stomach; diarrhea or vomiting; or jaundice.
  • Diphtheria, Tetanus, and acellular Pertussis (DTaP) vaccine is used to reduce the incidence of those diseases. Diphtheria is a very serious disease that can cause fever and weakness and make it difficult to breathe. It can attack the kidneys and nervous system and cause heart failure and paralysis. Transmission is usually from person-to-person through the respiratory tract. Tetanus is caused by a toxin-releasing bacterium, Clostridium tetani, which lives in the soil and enters through the skin. It can cause muscles to become rigid and have spasms and causes “lockjaw”. Pertussis, or whooping cough, is highly contagious and deadly. It causes severe coughing spells that have a whooping sound making it difficult to eat, drink or breathe.

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. A parent or legal guardian must accompany children receiving immunizations, and show the child’s immunization record.

While in Oklahoma, Dr. Orenstein will visit the following locations:

Monday, April 14, Oklahoma City
9:30 a.m. – Britton Elementary School, 1215 NW 95th; featuring children’s assembly and awards ceremony for immunization achievements.
12:00 p.m. – Grand Rounds at OU College of Public Health, 801 NE 13th in Room 150; presentation for health care professionals and students on “Successes, Promises and Challenges.”
1:45 p.m. – MEDIA KICK-OFF EVENT – St. Luke’s United Methodist Church Child Development Center, 222 NW 15th; children’s program and short presentation to parents and day care staff about immunizations.

Tuesday, April 15, Talihina, Poteau and Tulsa
9:30 a.m. –Talihina, Choctaw Nation Health Care Center, One Choctaw Way; presentation about the need for more hospitals to give the birth dose of hepatitis B immunization and have standing doctor’s orders on file. Official unveiling of the national poster “Protect the Circle of Life; Immunize our Nations.”
12:30 p.m. – Poteau, Carl Albert State College, 1507 South McKenna; presentation on infant immunizations, especially the hepatitis B birth dose and vaccine safety.
3:00 p.m. – Tulsa, East Regional Health Center, 5051 South 129th East Avenue; presentation and staff discussion on the importance of children being up-to-date on their vaccinations by age 2.
6:00 p.m. – Tulsa, Renaissance Hotel, 6808 South 107th East Avenue; dinner program with pediatricians, family practice physicians, Rotary Club members, and community partners to promote infant immunizations.


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