Each year, thousands of children in the United States become ill from diseases that could have been prevented by basic childhood immunizations. Countless more miss time from day care and school because they are under-immunized or inappropriately immunized.
A recent outbreak of measles in the U.S. has been attributed to the recent decline in children receiving the MMR vaccine. This decline is thought to be partially due to fears that this vaccine can lead to autism in children. The CDC and other experts defend this vaccine as being safe and effective and point to this recent outbreak as evidence that the benefits outweigh potential risks.
During the week of April 26 – May 3, 2014, National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW) is observed 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 United States.
This year marks the 20th 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. NIIW provided an opportunity to draw attention to these issues and to focus energy on solutions.
NIIW will be celebrated as part of World Immunization Week (WIW), an initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO). During WIW, all six WHO regions, including more than 180 Member States, territories, and areas, will simultaneously promote immunization, advance equity in the use of vaccines and universal access to vaccination services, and enable cooperation on cross-border immunization activities.
Several important milestones already have been reached in controlling vaccine-preventable diseases among infants worldwide. Vaccines have drastically reduced infant death and disability caused by preventable diseases in the United States.
Through immunization, we can now protect infants and children from 14 vaccine-preventable diseases before age two.
In the 1950s, nearly every child developed measles, and unfortunately, some even died from this serious disease. Today, few physicians will ever see a case of measles during their careers.
Routine childhood immunization in one birth cohort prevents about 20 million cases of disease and about 42,000 deaths. It also saves about $13.5 billion in direct costs.
According to the CDC, the National Immunization Survey has consistently shown that childhood immunization rates for vaccines routinely recommended for children remain at or near record levels.
But with 1 in 5 children still not being immunized, the message of this week is that immunization is key to a healthy future for your child. That future begins as an infant.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
World Health Organization