News Release

PO 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
Christine Grant
Commissioner
For Release:
September 23, 1999
For Further Information Contact:
Rita Manno or
Marilyn Riley
(609) 984-7160
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New Jersey's Childhood Immunization Rate Rises,
Exceeds National Average

TRENTON - According to data released today by the federal Centers for Disease Control, 85 percent of New Jersey's children were properly immunized in 1998, compared with 78 percent in 1997. The national average for 1998 was 80 percent.

The results of the CDC's National Immunization Survey will be published in the September 24 issue of the CDC publication, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

New Jersey's immunization coverage levels have risen dramatically since 1993, when only 50 percent of the state's children were properly vaccinated by age two. New Jersey's 85 percent coverage level puts the state in a good position to achieve the 90 percent immunization rate set out in both national and state health goals for the year 2000.

"We have made great strides in making sure our children are protected from measles, whooping cough and other preventable diseases," said Governor Christie Whitman. "Now, we must press on and work to see that every child in the state is properly vaccinated."

"For years, we have been building a system that ensures children will be properly immunized. Health care providers, social services workers, state and local health officials and many others have put in a lot of hard work," added Health and Senior Services Commissioner Christine Grant. "It's very gratifying to see these efforts paying off."

New Jersey has recorded no measles cases so far in 1999, and recorded eight in 1998. During the nationwide measles epidemic of 1990-91, New Jersey reported 1,575 measles cases and seven deaths.

Since then, the state has taken a number of steps to both remove barriers to on-time immunization and to promote the need for full immunization.

The departments of Health and Human Services developed immunization sites at county welfare offices and at offices of the Women, Infants and Children Supplemental Food Program (WIC). Children in these programs can receive vaccines on-site or are referred to doctors for immunizations.

The department has been working with private physicians to help them improve their office procedures and on-time immunization rates. More than 150 private physician offices, clinics and local health departments are linked to the state health department's immunization registry, which is used to track children's vaccine status and help providers remind parents when shots are due. And legislation signed in 1996 required insurance companies and HMOs to cover childhood vaccines without a deductible. New Jersey's managed care report card also measures health plan performance in the area of childhood immunization.

"We want to build on this success so that we can meet and exceed our health goals for the year 2000," said Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, Assistant Commissioner and State Epidemiologist.

Dr.Bresnitz noted that on October 5, the department is convening a group of physicians and representatives of health plans to discuss ways to collaborate to reach the goal of 90 percent immunization coverage. Toward this end, the department has drafted a wide-ranging strategic plan that includes expanding the number of private physician office assessments, and expanding the number of physicians participating in the New Jersey Vaccines for Children program. Through this program, eligible children currently can get free vaccines at the offices of approximately 1,500 participating physicians statewide.

The CDC's National Immunization Survey collects data quarterly through random telephone surveys and selected review of medical records. The survey measures the percent of children receiving the recommended four doses of DTP (diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis) vaccine, three of polio virus vaccine and one of MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine, and other vaccines.

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