Help Celebrate National Infant Immunization Week


National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW) 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 United States. NIIW is scheduled to be held April 26-May 3, 2014. The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) is requesting that public health and medical professionals join together to organize and participate in activities to promote timely, age-appropriate vaccination.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of NIIW and the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program. VFC helps provide vaccines to children whose parents or guardians may not be able to afford them, and helps many more children have a better opportunity of getting their vaccines according to the recommended immunization schedule. The VFC program has contributed directly to a substantial increase in childhood immunization coverage levels and has made a significant contribution to the elimination of disparities in vaccination coverage among young children.

Over the years vaccines have prevented countless cases of diseases and saved millions of lives, but recent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases serve as a reminder of the importance of up-to-date immunizations. NJ and surrounding areas have experienced outbreaks of measles, mumps and pertussis in recent years. People infected abroad continue to spark outbreaks among pockets of unvaccinated people, including infants and young children.

One example of the seriousness of vaccine-preventable diseases is an increase in measles cases or outbreaks that were reported in 2013. Data from 2013 showed a higher than normal number of measles cases nationally and in individual states, including an outbreak of 58 cases in New York City that was the largest reported outbreak of measles in the U.S. since 1996.

Increases in vaccine preventable diseases demonstrate that unless we eliminate all vaccine preventable diseases, it is important to keep immunizing -especially children. Even if there are only a few cases of disease today, if we take away the protection provided by vaccination, more and more people will be infected-spreading disease to others and eliminating the progress we have made over the years.

NJDOH encourages your organization to celebrate the critical role vaccination plays in protecting our children, communities, and public health. If you have not planned an event for your practice or community there is still time to do so. We strongly encourage you to review some of the suggested NIIW activities below and consider hosting at least one of these activities in your community during NIIW:

* Arrange for your mayor or other public official to sign a proclamation

* Organize an immunization awareness walk and involve healthcare providers, schools, child care centers and public officials

* Encourage local hospitals to conduct grand rounds focusing on infant and childhood immunizations

* Provide after-hour and weekend immunization services to reduce wait times and to eliminate access barriers, post this information on the community calendar

* Hold in-service training seminars focusing on immunization registries, eliminating barriers and reminder-recall systems

* Work with the local health department, clinics, and hospitals to promote neighborhood clinics

* Distribute immunization material to social service agencies and other community agencies that serve children, such as foster homes, refugee centers, homeless shelters, child care programs, schools, churches and hospitals

Additional information and resources to prepare for NIIW can be found on the CDC web site at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/events/niiw/index.html

We thank you for your anticipated participation in immunization activities. We ask that you let us know if you are organizing any events by completing and returning the attached form.