News Release

PO 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
Christine Grant
Acting Commissioner
For Release:
April 19, 1999
For Further Information Contact:
Rita Manno
(609) 984-7160
Marilyn Riley
(609) 984-7160
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New Jersey Marks Infant Immunization Week
With Campaign Urging Parents to Get Children Immunized

TRENTON -- New Jersey Transit bus riders across the state will get an important reminder about children's health this week, which is National Infant Immunization Week. "Don't Wait -- Vaccinate!" is the theme of public awareness placards now on display in nearly 900 buses statewide, Acting Health and Senior Services Commissioner Christine Grant announced today.

The bright yellow-and-black placards remind parents that it's important to immunize infants and toddlers on time. "Immunize: It's Good For Life," the interior bus placards explain. Vaccinations protect children's health and help avoid major outbreaks of preventable childhood diseases.

The posters encourage parents to take their children to a doctor or clinic or, if they're not sure where to go, to call the Department of Health and Senior Services Family Health Hot Line (1-800-328-3838) for information on where to get low-cost or free vaccinations. The placards will be on display for nine months. The $90,000 public awareness campaign is federally funded.

Governor Christie Whitman has proclaimed April 18 - 24 Infant Immunization Week in New Jersey. She noted the progress the state has made in raising immunization rates and recognized the many groups involved in that effort.

From 1988 to 1994, the state experienced five major measles outbreaks. Nearly 3,500 children contracted measles, more than 500 were hospitalized and seven died. Through the efforts of state and local government and many public and private groups, New Jersey has raised its statewide immunization rates significantly since 1992, when only 50 percent were properly immunized by age two. Statewide, that rate now stands at about 80 percent, although the rate is lower in certain areas, particularly in urban areas.

In 1997, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designated Newark as a "pocket of need" because, in the previous year, only 63 percent of children were age-appropriately immunized. Newark's immunization rate rose to 72 percent in 1997. New Jersey supports the national goal of achieving 90 percent immunization rates in all areas of the state by the year 2000.

A number of efforts are under way to improve immunization rates. The department has developed the New Jersey Immunization Information System, a registry that tracks children's vaccination status and helps physicians' offices remind parents when their children are due for immunizations. About 100 sites statewide -- including private physicians' offices, clinics and local health departments -- are linked to the Registry. The department is working to increase the number of participating doctors' offices.

The Newark Immunization Initiative has been working with private pediatricians to evaluate and improve their office procedures and on-time immunization rates. Thirty-five medical practices in Newark, East Orange, Orange and Irvington are participating in this assessment process.

For the second consecutive year, Elizabeth-based ShopRite Supermarkets is displaying public awareness posters on the importance of immunization in all stores in six states in the Northeast.

Governor Whitman also is continuing to send congratulatory cards to all new parents reminding them of the importance of immunizing their babies against 11 diseases. The cards are being donated by Hallmark Cards.

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