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News Release

   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
  August 26, 2002


Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.

For Further Information Contact:
Marilyn Riley
(609) 984-7160

New Public Awareness Campaign Launched
to Increase Childhood Immunization Rates

TRENTON - Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. today announced a new public awareness campaign aimed at increasing childhood immunization called "Disease Is Blind: It Does Not Discriminate."

First Lady Dina Matos McGreevey, Secretary of State Regena Thomas and Personnel Commissioner Ida L. Castro joined Commissioner Lacy at today's press conference at the Henry J. Austin Health Center in Trenton.

"All parents need to know that measles, whooping cough and other childhood diseases are still potential health threats. Fortunately, we have safe and effective vaccines that can prevent serious illness and even death," said Commissioner Lacy. "Free or low-cost vaccines are available locally in most communities, and I urge parents to pursue these services to protect the health of their children."

The awareness campaign publicizes a Department hotline (1-800-328-3838) to guide parents to the nearest immunization site. Free or low-cost vaccines, made available through the federal Vaccines for Children Program, can be obtained at participating doctors' offices and at clinics such as the Henry J. Austin center and other federally qualified health centers statewide.

"As a new mother myself, I know that, for parents, there is nothing more important than their children's health and well-being," said Mrs. Dina Matos McGreevey, First Lady of the State of New Jersey. "Getting your children vaccinated not only helps preserve their health, it gives parents important peace of mind knowing their children are protected."

"I urge all parents to call the toll-free hotline to find the closest clinic in your neighborhood," said Personnel Commissioner Ida L. Castro. "We have programs in place to get families the help that they need to keep their children healthy. Remember, children must have all their shots in order to be enrolled in a licensed day care facility or school."

"By making these programs and services readily available, there is no excuse not to get your child immunized," said Secretary of State Regena Thomas. "I encourage parents to get their children vaccinated on time."

Children receive most of their vaccinations in the first two years of life. By age two, about 78 percent of New Jersey's children - a rate that mirrors the national rate -- are appropriately immunized. The state's goal for 2010 is to have 90 percent of children properly immunized by age two.

The goal of the new outreach campaign is to get more children immunized on time and to communicate the safety and effectiveness of childhood vaccines. Over the next two months, the First Lady, Governor McGreevey and their young daughter, Jacqueline, will appear in television commercials airing across the State. Radio spots encouraging vaccination will feature the Governor and Mrs. McGreevey, with additional messages from Commissioner Castro, Secretary of State Thomas, and Sila M. Calderon, the Governor of Puerto Rico.

Governor McGreevey has demonstrated his ongoing commitment to immunization and protecting the health of New Jerseyans. Childhood immunization was a priority throughout his 10-year administration in Woodbridge. Under his leadership, the Township Department of Health consistently attained immunization rates well above the state average, and received praised from the state health department. The Township took part in innovative programs, such as one promoting the benefits of immunization on paper place mats in Woodbridge's fast food restaurants.

In the past year, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), one of the most respected scientific authorities in the United States, issued several reports thoroughly examining all concerns about vaccine safety. After exhaustive examination, the IOM found no evidence of vaccine link to health or developmental problems in children. Several federal agencies continue to monitor vaccines for their safety.

The Department is also working with the New Jersey Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on a number of special projects to reduce barriers to timely immunization, both in public clinics and among private providers. These include streamlining administrative procedures, expanding accessible service hours for patients, and ensuring that all parents are aware vaccines are available for their children, even if they cannot afford to pay or are not covered by insurance.

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Department of Health and Senior Services
P. O. Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

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