News Release


National Infant Immunization Week is April 16 - 22, 2000

National Infant Immunization Week will be observed April 16-22. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has selected Houston as the site of the national kick-off for the week. The Houston Department of Health and Human Services (HDHHS) and our community partners encourage local media to cover the special events and take advantage of the national experts who will attend the events in Houston.

Immunization is the premier success story of public health. There were only five vaccines in 1900; in 2000 there were 21 vaccines. Smallpox, a virulent and often fatal disease, was eliminated through immunization in the 1970ís. Wild virus Polio has been eliminated in the western hemisphere since the immunization was developed in the 1950ís. Cases of pertussis, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and Haemophilus influenzae type B are at or near record lows due to immunization programs.

According to the 1999 National Immunization Survey (NIS) Houston ranks in last position of the 50 states and 26 major cities measured. Only 61 percent of Houston children are appropriately immunized by age two; the national average is 79 percent.

Approximately 68 percent of Houston children receive their immunizations from private providers. Many children receive their shots at a combination of private and public immunization venues. Receiving shots from multiple immunization venues contributes to Houstonís apparent low immunization rate because there is no central registry of childhood immunization records.

Over the past ten years, the number of recommended vacciness have increased and the schedule has become more complex. The complicated schedule and the absence of disease contribute to parental and provider confusion and complacency regarding immunization.

National figures attending the kick-off include:

Walter Orenstein, MD

Director, National Immunization Program

Assistant Surgeon General

Dr. Orenstein has spent more than 21 years working with immunizations at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He was named director of the National Immunization Program in 1993. Dr. Orenstein has authored or coauthored over 100 articles and chapters published in medical books and literature. Dr. Orenstein serves on the National Vaccine Advisory Committee and the Committee on Infectious Diseases of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He is currently chairman of the Poliomyelitis Eradication Technical Consultation Group of the World Health Organization. He is an adjunct professor at the Emory School of Public Health in Atlanta, Georgia.

Jose Cordero, MD, MPH

Assistant Director, National Immunization Program

Assistant Surgeon General

Dr. Cordero received his medical degree from the University of Puerto Rico and completed residency training in Pediatrics at Boston City Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital. He received a Masters in Public Health from Harvard University in 1979. Dr. Cordero joined the CDC in 1979 as an Epidemiologic Intelligence Officer and has focused his work on childhood issues. He is an author of over 50 original scientific articles and is a sought after speaker at national and international scientific meetings. Dr. Cordero is the Chair of the Epidemiology Section of the American Public Health Association. In his tenure at the National Immunization Program, he has taken the lead in the efforts to develop immunization registries at the state and local levels.

Special events for the week include:

Friday, April 14, 5 p.m. - 8 p.m.

Fire Station 18, Telephone at Leeland

PSA kick off party. Local and national immunization authorities will preview new public service announcements for the media and host a neighborhood party. Entertainment and refreshments will be provided. Sponsored by Merck and the Hispanic Health Coalition.

Saturday, April 15, 9 a.m. - 10 a.m.

Jones Plaza

Immunization block walk rally. Following the rally, local volunteers will conduct a block walk in the Spring Branch area to promote immunizations. The Jones Plaza event will feature local and national experts, political leaders and local personalities. Sponsored by Hope for Kids and North American Vaccine, Inc.

Saturday, April 15, 7 p.m.

Immunization Recognition Dinner

Radison Astrodome Hotel, Loop 610 at Kirby

An opportunity to recognize organizations and individuals who are making significant contributions in improving Houston immunization rates. Sponsored by Aetna US Healthcare.

In addition to the special events, there are several stories significant to infant immunizations which could be covered during the week. HDHHS and our immunization partners are available to provide interviews and photo opportunities to assist with the stories.

Suggested stories include:

  • Vaccine safety
  • Children who have suffered unnecessary illness or bad outcomes from vaccine preventible diseases.
  • The immunization registry.
  • The 1989 measles epidemic in Houston.
  • Houston is in last place among states and major cities for immunizing their children on time.
  • Cost effectiveness of infant immunizations.
  • Community responsibility to immunize our children.
  • Older Houstonians who have had polio
  • How does your HMO measure up on providing on-time immunizations?