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Date: September 9, 2008
Contact: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications

Oklahoma’s Immunization Ranking for Children Ages 19 - 35 Months Improves to 15th in the Nation

The Oklahoma State Department of Health announced today that the state’s immunization coverage ranking for children ages 19-35 months improved from 22nd in the nation in 2006 to 15th in 2007. This is the highest ranking for immunization coverage ever received by the state.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Immunization Survey released last week, 78.5 percent of Oklahoma children ages 19 months through 35 months of age were fully immunized against 10 deadly and devastating diseases, including measles, whooping cough and hepatitis B.

“This is great news to the state and an indicator that we are on a steady track for a healthier Oklahoma,” said Secretary of Health and Commissioner of Health Dr. Michael Crutcher.
Reasons cited for the improvement include increased emphasis for vaccination by doctors’ offices, use of the simplified OK BY ONE immunization schedule, and outreach efforts of local county health department immunization workers.

“Additional contributions have been made by childcare operators statewide who work with parents to ensure that all children attending childcare are up-to-date on their immunizations,” said Crutcher.
Immunizations are an important focal point in nearly all health settings. Some Oklahoma providers believe so strongly in vaccination that they will not accept patients who do not agree to have their children vaccinated.

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 and Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type B) vaccine, and one dose of varicella (chickenpox).

“We are extremely pleased and proud to see an improved rate. This past year has been particularly concerning because of a national shortage of Hib vaccine and negative attention placed on vaccines,” said Crutcher. “The truth about vaccines is that they are safe, effective and remain the best form of protection against many deadly diseases. Parents who refuse vaccines for their child are taking a risk, one with potentially devastating consequences. I strongly encourage parents who have questions or concerns about vaccines to consult with their doctor.”

Crutcher noted that it only takes a small proportion of unvaccinated individuals to open the door for vaccine-preventable diseases to return. “Most of these diseases are only a plane ride away, as we have seen with measles this year,” he observed. There have been 135 cases of measles in the U.S. this year. Most of these cases have been among unvaccinated individuals or infants too young to receive vaccine.

In the past decade, measles has been well controlled in the U.S. as a result of high vaccination levels. However, measles continues to be a threat in undeveloped countries. Additionally, Europe has seen a steady rise in cases due to unproven fears about measles vaccine. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 345,000 deaths were attributed to measles in 2005.

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


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