To promote the importance of vaccination in protecting children against disease, Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd today met with families during a child immunization clinic at the Monmouth County Health Department in Freehold. The visit highlighted National Infant Immunization Week.
"Every parent wants what's best for their children. Giving babies the recommended immunizations by age two is the best way to protect them from childhood diseases like whooping cough and measles," Commissioner O'Dowd said.
According to the 2011 National Immunization Survey, nearly 80 percent of New Jersey children ages 19 - 35 months received the recommended vaccine doses compared to the national average of 77 percent. These vaccines provide protection against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), hepatitis B and chickenpox.
Thanks to immunization, most parents are not familiar with the devastating consequences of some childhood diseases. But these diseases persist. Nationally, there have been several outbreaks of measles over the last few years; and there have been two confirmed cases of measles in New Jersey in 2013, while one additional case is under investigation.
In addition, more than 41,000 whooping cough (pertussis) cases were reported in the United States last year, which resulted in 18 deaths. Most of these deaths were in children younger than one year old. This was the largest number of pertussis cases in any one year in the United States since 1955.
The Commissioner's visit was also part of a month-long celebration of National Minority Health Month. Commissioner O'Dowd, Deputy Commissioner Dr. Arturo Brito and other Department senior staff have attended many of the 150 health fairs, cooking demonstrations, health screenings and other events that were held this month.
According to a 2011 national survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, immunization rates did not differ by racial or ethnic groups for most vaccines, in contrast to other health services among these groups. Rather, vaccination rates for minority children were similar to, or higher than levels among white children.
"It's easy to think of these as diseases of the past. But the truth is they still exist," said Dr. Brito, a pediatrician and Deputy Commissioner for Public Health Services. "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."
National Infant Immunization Week is celebrated as part of World Immunization Week, an initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO) that is scheduled for April 24-30. For more on World Immunization Week, visit: http://www.who.int/campaigns/immunization-week/2013/en/
For more information about NIIW, please visit: www.cdc.gov/vaccines/events/niiw/index.html
For more information about the NJ Vaccine Preventable Disease Program, visit: www.nj.gov/health/cd/vpdp/