State Health Department Launches Infant Immunization Week

Governor Pataki Proclaims April 22–28 Infant Immunization Week

Albany, April 23 – State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello M.D., M.P.H., Dr. P.H., today announced a new $200,000 Infant Immunization Education and Awareness Campaign to highlight the importance of vaccinating New York's children. To highlight the importance of infant immunizations, Governor Pataki proclaimed this week (April 22–28), as "Infant Immunization Week" in New York State.

Dr. Novello said, "Thanks to the support of Governor Pataki, New York is doing more than ever to ensure that our children are receiving the highest quality health care. Whether it is Child Health Plus, expanding school–based health clinics, funding programs to combat asthma and diabetes, or announcing campaigns to increase awareness of the importance of infant immunization, New York continues to be in the forefront on these critical issues."

New York State is among the national leaders in child immunization rates at 80 percent, topping the national average of about 78 percent, for children receiving the 4–3–1 vaccine series (including four or more doses of diphtheria–tetanus–pertussis vaccine, three or more doses of polio vaccine, and one or more doses of measles–containing vaccine).

Steven P. Boyle, President and Chief Executive Officer of St. Peter's Health Care Services, said, "We are extremely pleased that Governor Pataki and Commissioner Novello have given a top priority to childhood immunizations. In this century, we have improved children's lives immeasurably through widespread immunization and are eager to continue in our efforts to ensure that every child in the community receives recommended vaccinations."

The State's infant immunization campaign includes: radio and public services announcements, billboard and bus advertisements, and brochures. In addition, a new infant health record booklet is available to parents and guardians to help them better track the vaccinations their children are receiving.

Dr. Novello said that providing children with recommended vaccinations are critical to ensuring their health and well–being. Over the years, vaccines have been responsible for virtually eliminating polio and significantly reducing the prevalence of other childhood diseases, such as measles, mumps, diphtheria, chickenpox, rubella, and whooping cough. The advent of vaccines to fight such childhood diseases has, over the years, saved our children from unnecessary doctors' visits, hospitalizations, developmental disabilities and tragic deaths.

"We must build on our success as we work to ensure that every newborn in this State receives all recommended vaccines by their second birthday," Commissioner Novello said. "In fact, the Governor has made this a priority and has directed the Health Department to work closely with providers and physicians to ensure that all children receive their recommended vaccinations to help them grow up healthy and strong."

In addition to the new immunization awareness campaign, the State Health Department has implemented many other programs that help families vaccinate their children, including the "Vaccines For Children" (VFC) program, which since its inception in the mid–90's, has been responsible for administering more than 17 million doses of vaccine to children through participating public clinics, health care facilities and physicians – with more than 2.5 million of those vaccinations provided to children last year alone.

Today, more than 1,000 health care facilities and public clinics, as well as an additional 3,200 private physicians participate in the VFC program.

In addition, the Governor's 2001–2002 State Budget proposal includes $3.7 million for Prevnar, a newly licensed vaccine for the prevention of invasive pneumococcal disease in children. Prevnar is a new addition to the routinely recommended vaccine schedule and should be given to all children under 24 months of age and to children 2–5 years of age with certain risk factors. It is anticipated that this vaccine will reduce the prevalence of cases of pneumococcal disease among children.

Annually in New York State, there are 45 cases of meningitis, 1,100 cases of bloodstream infection, and 14 deaths due to pneumococcal disease in infants and children. Providing immunizations to children at birth is critical to ensuring their health and well–being.

The recommended immunization schedule for children nationwide can be obtained by visiting the State Health Department's web site, and clicking on "Information for Consumers" and then the "Immunization Program." Parents can also contact the Growing Up Healthy Hotline at 1–800–522–5006 for more information regarding the State's immunization initiatives, participating VFC providers, enrolling in Child Health Plus, as well as other relevant State Health Department initiatives.