National Infant Immunization week begins
During National Infant Immunization Week, April 26 to May 3, the North Dakota Department of Health is reminding parents of the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases.
This year is the 20th anniversary of National Infant Immunization Week, an annual observance that emphasizes the need to fully immunize children 24 months and younger against 14 vaccine-preventable diseases. Following the recommended immunization schedule not only protects the infant, but also everyone in the community, by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases, the health department said.
“Because of the success of vaccines in preventing disease, parents may not have heard of some of today’s vaccines or the serious diseases they prevent,” said Molly Howell, immunization program manager. “These diseases can be especially serious for infants and young children. That is why it is important to follow the recommended immunization schedule to protect infants and children by providing immunity early in life, before they are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases.”
Vaccine-preventable diseases still circulate in North Dakota, the U.S. and around the world, so continued vaccination is necessary to protect everyone from potential outbreaks, the health department said. One example of the seriousness of vaccine-preventable diseases is an increase in measles cases and outbreaks that have occurred in the U.S. in 2013 and 2014. More than 100 cases have been reported in the U.S. so far this year; the vast majority of measles cases have occurred in unvaccinated individuals. Measles kills 1 in 1,000 cases. While North Dakota has not seen a measles case since 2011, in 2013, a case of meningitis caused by Haemophilus influenzae type B, a vaccine-preventable disease, was diagnosed; it was only the second case of its type in the state since 1991.
“2014 also marks the 20th anniversary of the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program,” Howell said. “The VFC Program helps provide vaccines to children whose parents or guardians may not be able to afford them, and helps many more children receive their vaccines according to the recommended immunization schedule.”
She said, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 1994 to 2013, it is estimated that childhood immunization has prevented 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 premature deaths due to vaccine preventable diseases. Routine childhood immunization has saved an estimated $295 billion in direct and $1.38 trillion in societal costs. More than 200 health care providers in North Dakota are enrolled in the VFC Program, so cost should not be a barrier to immunization, Howell said. Private health insurance also covers the cost of immunizations.
Parents should contact their primary care physicians or local public health units for vaccinations for their children.
For more information about National Infant Immunization Week, contact Howell, North Dakota Department of Health, at (701) 328-2378 or at 1 (800) 472-2180, or visit www.nd health.gov/immunize.