State Health Commissioner Urges Parents to Update Children's Immunizations Before School Begins

New Data Indicates New York Has Nation's 2nd Highest Number of Measles Cases

Note: Commissioner Daines is available for comment on this story.

ALBANY, NY (Aug 28, 2008) - With children returning to school next week, State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., today urged all parents to make sure their children's immunizations are up to date.

"Getting immunized is critical to protecting our families and our communities," said Commissioner Daines. "Infants and young children are particularly vulnerable to these diseases, so it's important that parents are aware of their children's immunization requirements and make an appointment for their child with a health care provider if appropriate."

Dr. Daines said a report on increased measles incidence released last week by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights the need for ongoing diligence and attention to vaccination. The CDC reported that more measles cases have occurred in the United States since January 2008 than during the same period in any year since 1996.

Of 131 measles cases reported nationwide since January, New York had 27 cases, the second highest number after Illinois, which had 32. New York's measles cases included 19 children ages 15 and younger. This is a substantial increase from 2007, when a total of eight measles cases were reported in New York for the entire year.

According to the CDC, 91 percent of the measles cases nationwide involved unvaccinated individuals or individuals for whom vaccination status was unknown. Many of New York's cases involved unvaccinated individuals who were exposed to measles outbreaks while traveling outside the U.S.

"The tremendous success of vaccines in eliminating widespread disease in the U.S. may have spawned public complacency," Dr. Daines said. "We should not forget that it was not all that many years ago that diseases like measles, mumps, rubella and pertussis (whooping cough) caused much illness and occasionally deaths. These diseases are still active, particularly in countries that lack effective immunization programs."

State law requires that all children enrolled in schools, day care and pre-kindergarten programs be immunized against measles. The state immunization schedule recommends measles vaccination be administered as part of a measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) combination at ages 12 to 15 months and again at ages 4 to 6 years.

Dr. Daines reported that cases of another vaccine-preventable disease – pertussis -- remain at high levels in New York. In 2007, 549 cases of pertussis were reported in New York, 43 percent of which occurred in children ages 19 years and younger.

"Since pertussis is most dangerous in children under age one, who are too young to have completed the full series of immunizations, it is even more important that their older siblings be fully vaccinated so that pertussis is not brought home," said Dr. Daines.

The state immunization schedule recommends that children be vaccinated against pertussis as part of a diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (DTaP) combination at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 12-18 months, and 4 to 6 years. In addition, a new state law requires that children 11 years old and entering sixth grade be vaccinated against pertussis.

"The benefits of immunization against measles, pertussis and other diseases are among the most significant public health achievements of our time," said Dale L. Morse, M.D., Assistant Commissioner of the state health department's Office of Science and chair of the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. "These cases serve as a reminder that vaccine-preventable diseases can and still do occur."

To improve record-keeping and accessibility of immunization records within the health care system, this year the State Health Department has begun implementing a new electronic statewide Immunization Registry. When fully implemented, health care providers will be able to access any child's immunization record to be sure that the child's immunizations are up to date.

For information on the New York State Recommended Childhood and Adolescent Immunization Schedule and Immunization Requirements for School Entrance Attendance, visit http://www.nyhealth.gov/prevention/immunization/childhood_and_adolescent.htm