News Release
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   April 23, 2001

Christine Grant

For Further Information Contact:
DHSS - Dennis McGowan, 609-984-7160
City of Newark - Brenda Jones, 973-733-4495
NII - Jane Sarwin, 973-268-2287
CDC - Curtis Allen, 404-639-8487


National Infant Immunization Week
Launched in Newark, New Jersey

NEWARK-- Federal, state and city health and elected officials gathered in Newark today to kickoff National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW), an annual observance to highlight the importance of timely immunizations, particularly for children under two years of age. Events and activities are planned throughout the week in Newark and around the country.

"Immunizations are one of the most important ways parents can protect their children against serious diseases," said Acting Governor Donald T. DiFrancesco in proclaiming the week of April 22-28, 2001, as National Infant Immunization Week in New Jersey. "Our message to parents this week and all year long must be clear and strong: Don't Wait ... Vaccinate!"

By their second birthdays, children should complete a series of immunizations - known as the 4:3:1 series - that includes four doses of a diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine, three doses of polio vaccine, and one dose of vaccine protecting the child from measles, mumps and rubella. Additional immunizations offering protection against hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae type b and pneumonia are also recommended by age two.

Education and community outreach efforts at national, state and local levels have resulted in immunization rates that are now at all-time high levels while vaccine-preventable diseases are at or near record lows. Still, more than one million American toddlers do not get one or more of their 4:3:1 series immunizations on time.

"Our success in getting children immunized has reduced, not eliminated, the threat posed by these diseases. Because of this success, parents really don't understand just how important it is to get their children immunized and what diseases can be prevented," said Assistant U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jose Cordero at today's event. "Parents today have never seen these diseases and the devastation they can cause and, therefore, have less concern about the need for immunization compared to other parental priorities."

"But," Dr. Cordero cautioned, "These are not diseases of the past. These diseases are still with us and are epidemic in many parts of the world."

Dr. Cordero said the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) selected Newark to host its national kickoff activities to recognize and support city, state and community efforts to raise infant immunization rates. In the past decade, immunization rates have risen from 50% in New Jersey and 25% in Newark, to 80% and 68%, respectively.

"Immunization rates are a sentinel of success to educate citizens, especially young parents who often haven't experienced preventable disease," said New Jersey Health and Senior Services Commissioner Christine Grant. "We have made great strides in recent years but we must press on to see to it that every child is protected against these terrible diseases."

Newark Mayor Sharpe James said, "I am delighted that CDC selected Newark as their kickoff city for this year's National Infant Immunization Week. This endeavor will assist our city's health department to further develop partnerships with businesses and other community and health agencies which will support and advocate our efforts to increase immunization awareness and to immunize children at the age-appropriate time."

James added that, "As Newark progresses to one of the nation's premier cities, children's healthcare is an essential element to Newark's success for developing healthy communities. The city is committed to promoting healthy programs and services targeting children."

Catherine Cuomo-Cecere, Director of the Newark Department of Health and Human Services, said that National Infant Immunization Week activities should generate long-lasting results.

"We hope the educational events we have planned this week will influence physicians, parents and daycare centers to form community partnerships to eradicate vaccine preventable diseases," Cuomo-Cecere said.
Efforts to improve the city's immunization rate are being led by the Newark Immunization Initiative (NII), a coalition of hospitals, community-based organizations, managed care providers, businesses, and local and state government agencies, including the Newark Health Department and the Gateway Maternal and Child Health Consortium. The NII sponsors a speakers' bureau, conducts workshops for healthcare and daycare providers, and encourages eligible individuals to enroll in NJ FamilyCare and obtain a primary care physician.

Activities are also ongoing at the state level to improve infant immunization rates. The Department of Health and Senior Services has implemented a wide-ranging strategic plan that includes expanding the number of private physician office assessments, and expanding the number of physicians participating in the New Jersey Vaccines for Children program. Through this program, eligible children currently can get free vaccines at the offices of approximately 1,900 participating physicians statewide.

The department has also been working with private physicians to help them improve their office procedures and on-time immunization rates. More than 280 private physician offices, clinics and local health departments are linked to the state health department's immunization registry, which is used to track children's vaccine status and help providers remind parents when shots are due. More than 410,000 children are currently in the registry's database. And, in an ongoing activity, congratulatory cards donated by Hallmark and signed by New Jersey's governor are sent to all new parents reminding them of the importance of immunizing their babies against 11 diseases.

Among the activities taking place in Newark as part of National Infant Immunization Week, are three separate immunization conferences for health officers, healthcare providers and daycare providers, and presentations of "Stop the Pox," an interactive role play for children depicting disease transmission. In addition, a nationwide Spanish-language media campaign was inaugurated this afternoon. The campaign includes posters, public transit ads and radio and television public service announcements.

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