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For Immediate Release:
April 23, 2009
Parents Urged to Choose Immunizations
National Infant Immunization Week campaign focuses on decreasing
personal belief exemptions in LA County
LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has
proclaimed April 25-May 2, 2009 as National Infant Immunization Week and
the month of May as Toddler Immunization Month. The theme for these
observances is Immunizations - I Choose to Stay on Track for a Lifetime
of Good Health.
"Immunizations have led to dramatic declines in vaccine-preventable
diseases, but their success in virtually eliminating these illnesses may
have contributed to a false sense of security among some communities,"
says Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health
Officer. "This is evidenced by a small but growing number of
individuals who decline vaccinations through personal belief exemptions.
This is a potentially dangerous trend. The complications of what were
previously considered common childhood diseases can be very serious,
leading sometimes to permanent problems and even death. Parents should
not take the good health achieved by years of successful immunizations
for granted; a choice to vaccinate is a choice to protect infants,
children, families and communities from serious vaccine-preventable
In California, infants and children are required to receive select
immunizations prior to entering school or childcare, to protect
themselves and other children. Concerns among a small group of parents
about vaccine safety and effectiveness have led some parents to exempt
their children from receiving these life-saving vaccines. These personal
belief exemptions have doubled in California over the past decade.
In February 2008, eleven children in San Diego who were not up-to-date
with measles vaccines caught the disease from a child who was not
vaccinated due to his parents' personal beliefs about immunizations.
One infant was hospitalized and dozens of children were kept home from
school for weeks to prevent the disease from spreading further. In
January 2008 in Minnesota, five cases of invasive Hib disease
(haemophilus influenzae type b) occured in children less than five years
of age. Three of the five children were unvaccinated, due to their
parents' personal beliefs about immunizations. One child died. This
was the first Hib death in Minnesota since the Hib vaccine's
introduction in 1992.
While immunization coverage levels for 24-month-olds in LA County have
increased over the past decades, one out of five children in the county
are still under-vaccinated and at risk for serious vaccine-preventable
diseases, such as whooping cough, measles or chicken pox. Approximately
two-thirds of infants diagnosed with whooping cough are hospitalized.
Fatality from whooping cough is highest among infants.
"National Infant Immunization Week and Toddler Immunization Month are
valuable opportunities to remind the public that we have the safest and
most effective vaccine supply in history," says Alvin Nelson-El Amin,
MD, MPH, Medical Director of Public Health's Immunization Program.
"Vaccines are tested extensively before they are licensed. Safety
continues to be monitored post-licensure, and there is no scientific
evidence that vaccines are linked to autism."
Parents are encouraged to contact their regular doctor to arrange for
recommended vaccinations, not only for their children, but also for
themselves. Those without a regular doctor or insurance coverage for
vaccines may be eligible for reduced-cost or no-cost vaccines. For
referrals to free or low-cost providers of vaccines, call the Los
Angeles County information line at 2-1-1 from any landline or cell
phone, or visit the Immunization Program website at
The Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and
improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles
County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and
services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control,
and community and family health. Public Health comprises more than 4,000
employees and an annual budget exceeding $750 million. To learn more
about Public Health and the work we do, please visit
# # #
Public Information Officer
Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
313 N Figueroa St, Suite 806
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 989-7183 (direct)
(213) 240-8144 (media)
(213) 481-1406 (fax)