Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
September 30, 1999
Rita Manno or Dennis McGowan, DHSS
ATLANTIC CITY -- Citing influenza and pneumococcal diseases as the fifth leading cause of death for New Jersey seniors, Health and Senior Services Assistant Commissioner Ruth Reader today came to the first of four adult immunization clinics to be held inside an Atlantic City casino this season to urge seniors statewide to "get the flu shot and the pneu shot."
"Flu and pneumonia are ruthless killers of older adults, together claiming the lives of nearly 2,000 New Jersey seniors each year," Reader said. "We are fortunate to have very effective vaccines but we need to do a better job getting seniors immunized."
To kickoff this effort, Reader unveiled a statewide educational campaign targeting both seniors and health care providers. The campaign, through its slogan and supporting materials, urges seniors to "Get the Flu Shot & the Pneu Shot." It also encourages physicians and other health care providers to offer vaccinations to their patients age 65 and older.
The assistant commissioner made the announcement at Trump Taj Mahal Hotel & Casino which, along with Bally's Park Place Casino, Caesar's Atlantic City and Tropicana Hotel & Resort, will host an immunization clinic this fall. Clinics are being held at Trump Taj Mahal today, Bally's on October 4th, Tropicana on October 5th, and Caesar's on October 7th. Clinic hours are from 11am-4pm.
The clinics are sponsored by the casinos, the department, the Peer Review Organization of New Jersey (PRONJ), the Atlantic County and Atlantic City Health Departments, Atlantic County Division of Intergenerational Services, Atlantic City Medical Center and Shore Memorial Hospital. More that 1,000 shots were given to seniors at clinics held in three casinos last year.
Joining Reader at today's announcement were Atlantic County Executive Richard Squires, local officials and representatives of the sponsoring agencies.
The "Get the Flu Shot & the Pneu Shot" campaign, now entering its third year, includes educational outreach through senior centers, senior organizations and health care providers. The Department of Health and Senior Services and PRONJ are also working with doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, local boards of health, visiting nurse associations, and health maintenance organizations. These health care providers have received fact sheets, fliers, posters, immunization record cards and colorful patient chart reminder notes.
"This campaign will let seniors know that flu and pneumococcal vaccines are available, affordable, safe and effective," said Cari Miller, PRONJ project leader. "It will also emphasize for health care providers the importance of adult immunization."
Reader said a vital part of the campaign includes enhanced regulations which require nursing homes and other senior care facilities to offer adult immunizations to their residents. Proposed regulations will require hospitals to make the same offer to their patients age 65 and older prior to discharge.
Reader said that while the state's adult immunizations rates are improving they still trail national averages. In 1997, according to Medicare billing data, only 40.3 percent of New Jersey residents age 65 and older received a flu shot, compared to 39.3 percent in 1996. Just 24.3 percent of seniors received the pneumococcal vaccine through 1997, while less than 17 had received that vaccine through 1996.
Influenza is a serious illness that causes symptoms which include fever, aches and pains, sore throat, runny nose, and chills. When people over 65 or those with chronic health problems, such as diabetes, get the flu, they are more likely to develop complications which can lead to hospitalization and a loss of independence. A new flu vaccine is developed each year to effectively fight the various influenza viruses expected to be prevalent each winter.
The pneumococcal vaccine is generally given only once to seniors age 65 and older and protects them from almost all the bacteria that cause pneumococcal diseases, such as septicemia, meningitis and pneumonia.
Both vaccines are covered by Medicare and Medicaid which also fully reimburses health care providers for immunizing senior beneficiaries. In addition to private doctors' offices, both shots are available at local immunization clinics held throughout the state each fall by health departments, visiting nurse associations and other health care providers. Traditional clinic locations include fire halls, senior nutrition sites and other community centers. Campaign organizers hope adding casino facilities to this list will increase the number of older adults who get the flu and pneu shots.
To find out about a clinic near you, contact your county office on aging, local health department or call NJ EASE toll-free at 1-877-222-3737.