Providence, R.I. — The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has announced that Elizabeth Lange, M.D. has been selected as Rhode Island's first Childhood Immunization Champion by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CDC launched this new annual award program to honor immunization champions in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia during National Infant Immunization Week (April 21-28, 2012).
"Dr. Lange's passion for childhood immunization and her dedication to Rhode Island children is an inspiration to her partners in pediatrics and public health," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH. "Her work on the front lines as a pediatrician and behind the scenes on issues of immunization policy protects children and saves lives."
Dr. Lange was nominated from a pool of healthcare professionals and other immunization leaders, all of whom have made significant contributions to public health in Rhode Island through childhood immunization. She has been a pediatrician at Coastal Medical, Inc./Waterman Pediatrics in East Providence since 1995, and sits on numerous boards and panels that aim to improve immunization rates in Rhode Island, including HEALTH's Vaccine Advisory Committee, the Primary Care Physician Advisory Council and the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (past president). Dr. Lange, who also sits on the Expert Advisory Committee for Health Insurance Exchange, has been an advocate on issues related to student vaccinations and has testified before the General Assembly on issues including Thimerosal and pediatric flu vaccine recommendations.
"I am honored to be named Rhode Island's CDC Childhood Immunization Champion. The success of Rhode Island's immunization program rests on the shoulders of the state's pediatricians and family physicians, as well as countless other immunization advocates. It is a privilege to be a part of this dedicated group," said Dr. Lange. "While we have made much progress, there is still work to be done to ensure that all children in Rhode Island are fully immunized on schedule."
Rhode Island's coverage rate for the combined vaccine series children should complete by two years of age was 80.2 percent in 2011 (the national average was 73.1 percent). Rhode Island's vaccination coverage rate for the vaccine series for adolescents between 13 and 17 years of age was 84.4 percent (the national average for this series was 64.2 percent).
National Infant Immunization Week is an annual observance to highlight the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases and to celebrate the achievements of immunization programs in promoting healthy communities throughout the U.S.
For more information about immunization issues in Rhode Island, call the HEALTH Information Line at 401-222-5960/Relay 711 or visit www.health.ri.gov.