The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today released the National Immunization Survey results, which show Louisiana improved 11 places in the rankings for children who receive their required vaccines.

In last year’s survey, Louisiana was ranked 46th nationwide. This year, the state is 32nd nationally for rates of children vaccinated against illness.

The National Immunization Survey uses telephone surveys of households with children aged 19 to 35 months. Surveyors ask parents or guardians about their child’s vaccine history, which appears on the child’s "shot card" kept in the home. Interviewers also ask for permission to contact the child's vaccination providers. Providers are then contacted by mail to verify each child’s vaccinations. Data is collected and analyzed for four quarters of the year. For 2005, due to Hurricane Katrina, data from Orleans Parish was not included in the survey.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco said fully immunizing children is one of the most important strategies to improving Louisiana’s overall health.

"When I took office in 2004, our immunization rate was 49th nationwide. At that time I made a commitment to improve immunization rates,” Gov. Blanco said. “The commitment continues because this is one of the most cost-effective public health initiatives we can do to improve our state's health outcomes."

Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Dr. Fred Cerise attributed the improved ranking to initiatives within his agency to improve immunization rates among Louisiana children.

“Several reasons for this improvement include the advocacy of the Shots for Tots by One initiative and the Vaccines for Children campaign, yearly vaccination outreach events throughout the state and the efforts to have every child’s immunization record entered into the LINKS system. This allows private physicians, hospitals and parish health units to track the immunization status of children from birth,” Dr. Cerise said. “All of these initiatives, as well as the dedication of our public health staff, ensure that children are properly vaccinated. As a result, our national ranking has increased.”

Louisiana’s immunization coverage rate for children 19 - 35 months of age is 74.1 percent. While this is slightly below the national average of a 76.1 percent immunization rate, this is an improvement over past years, when Louisiana was ranked at the bottom for childhood immunizations.

“Our Shots for Tots program’s goal is to have a 90 percent immunization rate and while we have not reached that, our improvement on this survey show the mechanisms we’ve put in place to increase childhood vaccines are working,” Dr. Cerise said. “We will push forward with these initiatives, and I expect our rate will continue to climb.