October 13, 2000

Immunize For Healthy Lives

By Dr. Luis Estevez
Vice President of the National Hispanic Medical Association

It's back-to-school time which means parents are busy with the activities that traditionally accompany a new school year, from shopping for new clothes to checking bus schedules and purchasing school supplies. The National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA) is encouraging parents to add an important annual check-up to their back-to-school checklist: their children's immunization schedules. This is important for all children, whether they are in pre-school or high school, but it's most important for those who are too young to walk any school hallways this year: children under the age of two.

While disease levels are low and immunization rates are high, according to The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention it is important to make certain that the 11,000 infants born in the U.S. each day complete their vaccinations on time and are healthy into the millennium. Before age two, children need to complete a series of more than 16 vaccine doses to protect them from more than 10 preventable diseases, which can be complete in seven visits to a health care provider.

To help increase public awareness on the importance of immunization, McDonald's, the NHMA and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) are partnering to bring communities across the country an education awareness campaign for parents called "Immunize For Healthy Lives."

McDonald's, NHMA and AAP are working together to offer parents up-to-date immunization information. Thousands of participating McDonald's restaurants will offer educational information including the AAP recommended immunization schedule on trayliners and leaflets.

We hope that the educational information will remind parents to check with their health care providers to make sure their children's immunizations are up-to-date.

Immunization schedules have been changing frequently due to the improvements made to current vaccinations and the introduction of new vaccines. This year, two new vaccines were added to the 2000 AAP-recommended immunization schedule -Hepatitis A and heptavalent pneumococcal conjugate (PCV7). PCV7 protects against pneumococcal infections including meningitis, pneumonia and pneumococcal bacterimia. Pneumococcal infections are the most common invasive bacterial infections in children in the U.S. About 1,400 cases of meningitis, 17,000 cases of bloodstream infections, and 71,000 cases of pneumonia are caused by these infections every year in children under five.

For more information about "Immunize For Healthy Lives" please contact Dr. Luis Estevez at 212/630-5000. If you are a parent or caregiver that does not have a regular health care provider, you can call the National Immunization Hotline at 1-800-232-2522 (English) or 1-800-232-0233 (Spanish) to find out where vaccinations are available. By working together we can make sure our children's health remains a top priority.

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