With the number of measles cases in the United States climbing every week and vaccination rates inching downward, this is an especially important year to take note of National Infant Immunization Week, from April 27 to May 4.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has compiled some worthwhile facts and observations to help inform the public about vaccination during a time for remembering the devastation caused by diseases that now are preventable. It’s a moment for spreading the word about protecting babies and the population as a whole by following the CDC’s schedule of recommended vaccines for babies and young children. Here is some of the information you can use to help inform others about the vital role that vaccines play in public health and in the health of individuals and communities:
- Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death. They not only help protect vaccinated individuals, but also help protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases. Among children born during 1994-2018, vaccination will prevent an estimated 419 million illnesses, 26.8 million hospitalizations, and 936,000 deaths over the course of their lifetimes.
- Giving babies the recommended vaccinations by age 2 is the best way to protect them from 14 serious childhood diseases, like whooping cough and measles. Parents are encouraged to talk to their child’s doctor to ensure that their baby is up-to-date on vaccinations.
- In 2019, we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of NIIW. When the NIIW observance was established in 1994, immunization programs were facing significant challenges. The nation was in the midst of a serious measles outbreak and communities across the U.S. were seeing decreasing immunization rates among children. Sound familiar?
- CDC’s data suggest that many parents who have not vaccinated their children according to the schedule want to do so but may hurdles, like not having a healthcare professional nearby, not having time to get their children to a doctor, and/or thinking they cannot afford vaccines.
- This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the Vaccines For Children (VFC) program. VFC is a federally funded program that provides vaccines at no cost to children who might not otherwise be vaccinated because of inability to pay. The VCF program helps children get their vaccines according to the recommended immunization schedule. It has helped increase childhood immunization coverage levels, making a significant contribution to the elimination of disparities in vaccination coverage among young children.
- Families who need help paying for childhood vaccines should ask their healthcare professional about the VFC program. For help in finding a local healthcare professional who participates in the VFC program, parents can contact their state health department or visit https://www.cdc.gov/features/vfcprogram.
- Protecting babies from whooping cough begins before a baby is even born. All pregnant women are recommended to receive the whooping cough vaccine (Tdap) during each pregnancy. The recommended time to get the shot is during the 27th through 36th week of pregnancy, preferably during the earlier part of this time period. This will help protect babies from whooping cough until they can receive their first whooping cough vaccine at 2 months. Learn more about the CDC’s Born With Protection campaign at www.cdc.gov/pertussis/pregnant. Learn more about maternal vaccination at www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pregnancy.
- Currently, the United States has the safest vaccine supply in its history. The United States’ long-standing vaccine safety system ensures that vaccines are as safe as possible. As new information and science become available, vaccine recommendations are updated and improved.
Interested in finding out more? Go to www.cdc.gov/vaccines/events/niiw/index.html