Remarks as prepared; not a transcript.

Vice Admiral Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H, FACS
United States Surgeon General
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Press Conference with Mexican and Canadian Health Officials to Announce "Vaccination Week in the Americas"

Monday, April 25, 2005
10 a.m.
Washington, D.C.

"Vaccination Week in the Americas"


Good morning. On behalf of President Bush and Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, it's an honor to be here today with public health leaders representing our neighbors to the north and south.

The collaboration that we're announcing today is a great example of the importance and value of partnering across borders to prevent disease.

As we all know, disease knows no borders. We must do all that we can across borders to prevent all that is preventable.

This year's National Infant Immunization Week is taking advantage of the successful partnership that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has developed with the Pan American Health Organization. HHS's partnership with PAHO aims to broaden national efforts to increase awareness about infant immunizations and access to health services.

More than 35 countries in the Western Hemisphere have worked together on this unprecedented event to highlight the need for routine vaccinations and to promote access to health services for infants and children. More than 500 communities across the United States are participating with community awareness and media events to promote infant immunizations to parents, caregivers, health care professionals, and communities.

This year's awareness and education effort for Vaccine Week in the Americas kicks off with special events in Louisiana, New Mexico, and along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Immunization is one of the most important and cost-effective ways that we can protect our children against serious diseases.

Each day, 11,000 babies are born in the United States - each needing to be vaccinated against 12 different diseases before the age of 2. With today's medical advances we can protect children from more vaccine-preventable diseases than ever before.

Because of vaccines, we can celebrate multiple public health achievements:

  • April 2005 marked the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the polio vaccine.
  • In March 2005, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that in the United States, rubella is no longer a major health threat to expectant mothers and their babies, thanks to a safe and effective vaccine, high vaccine coverage, and parents' confidence in the vaccination recommendation.
  • And in July 2004, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that the nation's childhood immunization rates are at record high levels.

Vaccines have drastically reduced infant death and disability caused by preventable diseases in the United States. That's very good news.

But the reality is that it will take diligent effort to maintain immunization programs here and strengthen them worldwide. We cannot afford to lose focus. Without our continued efforts on behalf of the most vulnerable members of our society, vaccine-preventable diseases will remain a threat to children.

Disease knows no borders. In an era of terrorism and mass global transit, deadly and debilitating germs can travel between nations as easily as carry-on luggage.

Because of this, I ask parents to make it a priority to immunize their children. Parents, please talk with your child's health care provider to make sure that your child is fully immunized, and keep a record of each immunization your child receives. You can keep track of your child's immunizations with the CDC's easy-to use "Immunization Schedule" (free at http://www.cdc.gov/nip/recs/lamincard-child-colorprint.pdf).

On-time immunization protects your child, your family, and your community.

I also call on health care professionals to check immunization records at every visit so we don't miss an opportunity to fully protect the children in our care.

This effort is of particular importance to me this year as I have declared the 2005 agenda for the Office of the Surgeon General to be "The Year of the Healthy Child." We are focusing on improving the body, mind, and spirit of the growing child. I appreciate the many partners who have joined with us already, and thank those who are in attendance here today.

We know that the health needs of children grow into the health problems of adulthood. By improving the holistic health of our children, we can ensure a healthier population for the next generation.

On-time vaccination is an important step toward improving the health of children both domestically and internationally. It is key to creating a safer, healthier nation and world.

Thank you.

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Last revised: January 8, 2007