National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW) April 23-30, 2011
Apr 25, 2011 Posted by Joshua Jones
National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW) is an annual observance to promote the benefits of immunizations and to improve the health of children two years old or younger. NIIW is part of a broad global initiative with the World Health Organization Regions of the Americas, European, Eastern Mediterranean, Western Pacific, and Africa to promote vaccination through education and communication activities. Since 1994, local and state health departments, national immunization partners, health care professionals, community leaders from across the United States, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have worked together through NIIW to highlight the positive impact of vaccination on the lives of infants and children, and to call attention to immunization achievements.
This year’s NIIW, set for April 23-30, 2011 will be held in conjunction with the Pan American Health Organization’s (PAHO) Vaccination Week in the Americas (VWA). Hundreds of communities across the United States and throughout the Western Hemisphere are expected to participate in NIIW and VWA by planning community awareness, education, and media events to promote infant and child immunizations to parents, caregivers, and health care professionals.
Awareness and education events are being planned in conjunction with state and local health departments, PAHO, and the United States-Mexico Border Health Commission in sister cities sites along the U.S.-Mexican border. More than 40 countries throughout the Western Hemisphere are expected to work together on VWA to highlight the need for routine vaccinations for infants and children.
Several important milestones already have been reached in controlling vaccine-preventable diseases among infants and adults worldwide. Vaccines have drastically reduced infant death and disability caused by preventable diseases in the United States. In addition:
- 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 just out of medical school will ever see a case of measles during their careers.
- In March 2005, CDC announced that rubella is no longer a major health threat to expectant mothers and their unborn children, thanks to a safe and effective vaccine, high vaccine coverage.
- In September 2010, CDC announced that childhood immunization rates for vaccines routinely recommended for children remain at or near record highs.
Yet without diligent efforts to maintain immunization programs in the United States and to strengthen them worldwide, vaccine-preventable diseases will remain a threat to children. As illustrations, it’s only necessary to consider the 2010 California outbreak of whooping cough where over 8,000 cases were reported in the state and where there were 10 infant deaths, or measles, which takes the lives of more than 100,000 children globally each year.
Opportunities for 2011 NIIW
NIIW provides an opportunity to:
- Highlight the dangers of vaccine-preventable diseases, especially to infants and young children, and the importance and benefits of childhood immunizations.
- Educate parents and caregivers about the importance of vaccination in protecting their children from birth against vaccine-preventable diseases.
- Focus attention on our immunization achievements and celebrate the accomplishments made possible through successful collaboration.
- Step up efforts to protect children against vaccine-preventable diseases and thereby give them a healthy start in life.
- Encourage better communication between parents and health care professionals.
- Remind parents and caregivers they need to make and keep needed immunization appointments.
- Provide parents and caregivers with a toll-free number, 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636), to locate a facility that offers immunizations through the Vaccines for Children’s program, a federally funded program that provides vaccines at no cost to children whose parents cannot afford to pay for them.
NIIW also supports efforts to:
- Provide web-based resources for state and local health departments and local coalitions to develop and implement a communication strategy that will increase awareness of the importance of immunization and improve local vaccine coverage rates.
- Create events that attract community support and media interest in order to increase national and local coverage of stories on the importance of childhood immunization.
- Provide a forum to pitch news stories, provide media hooks to interest local media in developing feature stories on the importance of childhood immunization, and create opportunities for local media interviews with immunization experts.
- Recognize local partners and volunteers for their year-round efforts helping to raise childhood immunization coverage, with special emphasis on completing the vaccination series.
- Create opportunities for local organizations and agencies to work together as immunization partners.
PAHO’s Vaccination Week in the Americas, whose theme for 2011 is, "Vaccinate your family, protect your community," offers opportunities to:
- Promote equity and access to immunization
- Strengthen immunization programs in the Region of the Americas
- Promote the transition from child to family immunization
- Maintain immunization on political agendas
- Promote communication and cooperation between countries, or “Pan-Americanism”