News Release
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
  April 25, 2001

Christine Grant

For Further Information Contact:
DHSS - Dennis McGowan, 609-984-7160
NII -- Jane Sarwin, 973-268-2287
CDC - Curtis Allen, 404-639-8487


Health & Senior Services Commissioner Announces Additional Funds to Raise Infant Immunization Rates in Greater Newark Area
Preschoolers Stage a Mock Chickenpox Outbreak During
National Infant Immunization Week "Stop the Pox" Program

NEWARK-Health and Senior Services Commissioner Christine Grant announced today that the department will direct $403,000 in federal funds to support efforts to raise immunization rates in Newark.

The funds will be used to establish a case management service that will work with new moms and dads to ensure their children are properly immunized by age two. The money will also be used to increase outreach and education efforts to local businesses, churches and community groups.

"The single most important public health accomplishment of the 20th Century was the advent of vaccines to prevent debilitating and deadly diseases," said Grant. "We need to ensure that every child reaps the benefits of this accomplishment by ensuring they received all their vaccinations on a timely basis."

Grant made the announcement during a "Stop the Pox" program at the Newark Beth Israel Medical Center Day Care Center. During this program, dozens of preschoolers staged a mock chickenpox outbreak to focus attention in a fun and interactive way on the importance of timely immunizations, particularly for children under two years of age. The program is one of many activities being held this week in Newark and around the country in observance of National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW).

Participants at today's event included Dr. Walter Orenstein, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Immunization Program; Betty Bumpers, co-founder and vice-president of Every Child By Two, a national infant immunization advocacy group; and other federal, state and city health officials. During the program - led by Noodle the Clown - the children participated in a role-playing exercise, Mrs. Bumpers read them the book "Arthur's Chickenpox," and representatives gave brief remarks.

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.

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.
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.

Events marking National Infant Immunization Week in Newark include Monday's kickoff celebration at The Newark Club and three separate immunization conferences for health officers, healthcare providers and daycare providers. In addition, a nationwide Spanish-language media campaign was inaugurated this week. The campaign includes posters, public transit ads and radio and television public service announcements.

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