Clinton to order immunization assessments
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Hoping to boost the number of children receiving necessary vaccines, President Clinton planned to issue an executive memorandum Monday calling on the Department of Agriculture to perform immunization assessments of some 5 million children currently enrolled in the federal assistance program for women, infants and children, known as WIC.
Joining the president at the White House for the announcement will be former first lady Rosalynn Carter, who has long been involved in efforts to boost immunization rates among children.
The Clinton administration said while childhood immunization rates are currently at all-time highs, with 90 percent of children receiving the most critical vaccines by age 2, low-income and minority children are less likely to be immunized.
"There are some real serious pockets of problems," said Chris Jennings, the president's domestic policy adviser, adding that immunization rates in some inner-city areas are 20 percent below the national average.
The president planned to announce that he is calling on the WIC program to check the immunization status of every child receiving services and assistance, and to refer children who are behind on their immunizations to a local doctor or public clinic. Children who are not insured can receive vaccinations for free under the Vaccines for Children program.
The White House said studies show putting WIC together with immigration services could boost vaccination coverage by as much as 40 percent within one year.
The WIC program, which covers 45 percent of infants across the country and more than 5 million children younger than 5, is "the single largest point of access to health services for low-income preschool children who are at the highest risk for low vaccination coverage," according to the administration.
The president also was to call on the departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture to come up with a plan to improve the immunization rates for children "at risk" within 60 days.
Clinton also planned to praise the American Academy of Pediatrics for alerting its 55,000 members to issue reminders to WIC patients about the need for immunizations.