Many Oklahoma children not protected against childhood diseases, officials say

Tuesday, April 15th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Although Oklahoma has improved is national ranking for childhood vaccinations, more needs to be done, state health officials say.

The state now ranks 32nd for childhood vaccinations, up from 47th a few years ago. But more than 12,000 babies born in Oklahoma each year don't get all their necessary vaccinations by age 2.

``Parents don't keep up with vaccine schedules,'' Don Blose, state immunization director, said Monday. ``They get confused or sidetracked, and there's been a vaccine shortage.''

More toddlers need to complete a four-dose series of shots that protect against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DPT), health officials said. A fifth shot of DPT vaccine is required for admittance to kindergarten.

Also, a hepatitis B shot should be given after birth.

Blose said doctors, hospitals and birthing centers need standing orders to administer a hepatitis B birth dose.

``One out of four Oklahoma children is not fully protected from vaccine-preventable diseases by their second birthday,'' he said. ``By improving Oklahoma's fourth dose of DTP by just 8 percent, our state would move into the top 5 percent of states for fully protected infants.''

He made his comments at an immunization rally attended by Dr. Walter A. Orenstein, America's assistant surgeon general.

Blose said there are too many missed opportunities to vaccinate, and many vaccine providers do not have a recall and tracking system.

Many parents, he said, are unaware that pertussis, also known as whooping cough, has been increasing nationwide and children need to have all four DTP doses for the best protection by age 2.

He urged Oklahoma day care centers to keep childhood immunization records up to date.

Oklahoma City and Los Angeles are the only two American cities being highlighted by public health leaders during mid-April's National Infant Immunization Week.

Federal public-health leaders, in particular, want the government's immunization message shared with American Indian parents. Orenstein has scheduled a meeting Tuesday in Talihina at the Choctaw Nation Health Center.

``As parents, we want basic things for our children. We want them to grow up knowing that they are loved, and we want to provide them with opportunities to reach their full life potential,'' said Orenstein, director of the national immunization program for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

``As part of that, we want them to be healthy and happy. Vaccinations are one way that parents can protect their child's health, and in turn protect the health of their community.''