The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will launch National Infant Immunisation Week (NIIW) with events beginning April 19 and continuing through April 26, 2008.
Parents, caregivers and healthcare providers will be reminded during NIIW of the benefits of vaccination and the importance of routine childhood vaccination. One focus will be encouraging parents to become informed medical consumers by talking to their healthcare providers and asking them questions about vaccines.
“Immunisation has been cited as one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century. We can now protect children from more vaccine-preventable diseases than ever before,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunisation and Respiratory Diseases. “More than four million children are born each year in the U.S. and each one will need to be vaccinated. We prevent millions of cases of disease and thousands of deaths when we vaccinate them.”
There are now vaccines to protect children against 15 diseases before age two. Despite recent gains in infant immunisation coverage, more than 20 percent of the nation’s two-year-olds are not fully immunised against infectious diseases to which they are especially vulnerable.
“A substantial number of children in the United States still aren’t adequately protected from vaccine-preventable diseases," said Dr. Schuchat. "The suffering or death of even one child from a vaccine-preventable disease is an unnecessary human tragedy. Let us renew our efforts to ensure that no child, adolescent, or adult will have to needlessly suffer from a vaccine-preventable disease."
The number of cases of most vaccine-preventable diseases and deaths is at an all time low. Vaccination programs in the United States have contributed to the elimination of many vaccine-preventable diseases and have greatly reduced the incidence of most other vaccine-preventable diseases.
“Infants are more vulnerable to many diseases than older children and adults,” said Dr. Schuchat. “Yet it’s important for adults to also be vaccinated to keep themselves healthy and to keep from spreading infections to vulnerable people, including children.
Although vaccines have drastically reduced vaccine-preventable diseases, they are still circulating in many parts of the world and the United States can see a return of these diseases if we don’t maintain high vaccine coverage levels. Diligent efforts are required to ensure our immunisation programs remain strong to protect our children.
Events throughout the United States and the entire Western Hemisphere will reach out to parents, caregivers, health care providers, and communities to highlight the benefits of vaccination and the need for routine vaccinations.
Education and media events in Washington, Rhode Island, and Connecticut will kick off this year’s celebration. Hundreds of communities across the United States are also expected to participate. Events will promote vaccinations, reminding parents and other caregivers how important it is to protect babies against vaccine-preventable diseases starting at birth.
For the fifth year, NIIW takes place at the same time as Vaccination Week in the Americas, a partnership among CDC, the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), and the United States-Mexico Border Health Commission. Border kick-off events will be in El Paso, TX and Sundland Park, NM, and in Mexico.
(Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: April 2008)