National Infant Immunization Week: Protect your children against preventable diseases

This week is National Infant Immunization Week, and Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department wants parents to understand the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases.

“Vaccination plays a critical role in protecting our children,” said Nigel Turner, director of the Communicable Disease Control division at the health department. “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,” he said.

Immunization is a shared responsibility. Families, healthcare professionals, and public health officials must work together to help protect the entire community. Health care professionals remain parents’ most trusted source of information about vaccines for their children. They play a critical role in supporting parents in understanding and choosing vaccinations.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, giving babies the recommended immunizations by age two is the best way to protect them from 14 serious childhood diseases, like whooping cough and measles. Parents should talk to their child’s doctor to ensure that their infant is up-to-date on immunizations.

Vaccine-preventable diseases still circulate in the United States and around the world, so continued vaccination is necessary to protect everyone from potential outbreaks, especially infants and children. Even when diseases are rare in the U.S., they can be brought into the country, putting unvaccinated children at risk. One example of the seriousness of vaccine-preventable diseases is the increase in whooping cough (pertussis) cases or outbreaks that were reported in a majority of states during 2012.

Today, there are cases in every state, and the country is on track to have the most reported cases since 1959. As of November 16, 2012, more than 35,000 cases have been reported across the United States, including 16 deaths. The majority of these deaths were among infants younger than 3 months of age. In Pierce County, the number of pertussis cases reached 787 in 2012, more than 10 times the typical annual number of cases.

Currently, the United States has the safest, most effective 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, this system is, and will continue to be, updated and improved.

NIIW will be celebrated this year simultaneously with World Immunization Week, an initiative of the World Health Organization.

For more information on childhood vaccinations, including links to the recommended vaccination schedule and a calendar of free and low-cost vaccinations for children, visit www.tpchd.org/immunizations.

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