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DHS news release

Nov. 15, 2005

Contact: Bonnie Widerburg (971) 673-1282
Technical contact: Karen Elliott (971) 673-0285


New public service ads raise awareness about pertussis danger


Note to reporters: See below for links to download copies of the radio, TV or billboard PSAs. To receive a copy via email or CD, call Bonnie Widerburg, (971) 673-1282.



It's a compelling scene: a mother drives through dark, rainy streets as her small child coughs, out of control, in the back seat. She frantically waits for the traffic light so she can speed on for help.


"When your child can't breathe, red lights seem like an eternity," is the slogan of a new public service announcement that promotes childhood immunization to prevent pertussis and other diseases.


This month it began running on Comcast television in 17 Oregon counties as part of the "Focus on the 4th DTaP" initiative, sponsored by the Oregon Partnership to Immunize Children (OPIC) and the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS). The campaign is funded by federal dollars and is part of a regional immunization strategy developed in cooperation with the Washington State Department of Health.


Pertussis, often called whooping cough, is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the respiratory tract. Initial symptoms resemble a common cold but, within two weeks, the mild cough becomes severe with periods of numerous rapid coughs, followed by a crowing, high-pitched cough.


"People of any age can become infected with pertussis--in fact, 70 percent of Oregon's cases in the last four years were to people age 10 or older," said Karen Elliott, OPIC coordinator and a DHS employee. "But pertussis is particularly dangerous for infants, often requiring hospitalization. In the past three years, three Oregon children under 12 months died of the infection."


Yet routine childhood immunization provides protection from pertussis, Elliott says.


Elliott says five diphtheria/tetanus/acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccinations are needed to provide full protection. They are given at two months, four months, six months and between 12 and 18 months, with the final vaccination administered at or after the child's fourth birthday.


"A review of Oregon's DTaP vaccination rates showed that more than 15 percent of children miss the fourth vaccination--the one to be given between 12 and 18 months," Elliott said. "These little ones don't have maximum protection from pertussis."


Further, Elliott says, the DHS review shows that children who miss the fourth DTaP are less likely to have received all their childhood vaccinations on time.

That is why, she says, the ultimate hope is that educating parents about the fourth DTaP vaccination will improve overall childhood immunization rates.


Public service announcements have been sent to county health departments across the state for use in approaching local media outlets. Radio ads and billboards are planned and locations are currently being selected, according to Elliott.

Outreach to health care providers is another component of the campaign and provider information sheets, posters, and information cards for parents have been produced. All materials are available in English and Spanish, Elliott says.


Elliott said that Oregon's statewide electronic immunization registry will help providers keep track of patients' immunizations and will help in measuring the campaign's effectiveness over time.


She advises any parents who are concerned about whether their child has received all his or her shots to contact their health care provider or the county health department. They can also call (800)-SAFENET to receive general information about pertussis disease and the fourth DTaP shot.




Download the radio spot in English (mp3 file)


Download the radio spot in Spanish (mp3 file)


Download the television ad in English (Windows Media file)


Download the television ad in Spanish (Windows Media file)


Download a copy of the billboard in English (PDF)


Download a copy of the billboard in Spanish (PDF)