PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
April 29, 2014

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

National Infant Immunization Week Underscores Need for Children to be Up-to-Date on Vaccinations

Increasing numbers of cases of measles and mumps in New Jersey and the nation underscores the need for everyone-especially children-to be up-to-date on immunizations especially as the summer travel season approaches.

According to the CDC, nationally measles has infected 129 people in 2014, the most in the first four months of any year since 1996. People infected abroad continue to spark outbreaks among pockets of unvaccinated people in New York, Ohio, California and other states. Thirty four of the 129 cases nationwide were imported through international travel.

"Immunization is one of the best ways parents can protect their infants from serious childhood diseases before age 2," said Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd.  "Through immunization, we have made great strides in drastically reducing infant death and disability in the United States."

So far this year, there have been 3 measles cases in New Jersey-two related to international travel-and an additional eight cases are under investigation. Last year, New Jersey had 15 cases, 12 of which were in one family, after international travel. Nationally, there were 189 cases last year, compared with 55 cases in 2012.

New Jersey is currently experiencing an outbreak of mumps at Stevens Institute of Technology. Eight cases of mumps have been identified among students attending the school.

In addition, there continues to be widespread flu activity across New Jersey.  It is especially important for young children and pregnant women to get flu shots to protect themselves and their families-children under 5 and pregnant women are at high risk for complications such as hospitalization.  Since 2007 there have been 21 pediatric flu deaths, which include two this flu season.

"Since the flu is still circulating, it is not too late for parents to take their children to get vaccinated if they haven't been yet this flu season," said Deputy Commissioner Dr. Arturo Brito.  "Influenza activity usually peaks in January, but illnesses can occur as late as May. Currently, we are seeing Type B flu, which typically occurs later in the season."

This week marks the 20th anniversary of National Infant Immunization Week, which is designed to raise awareness about the importance of childhood immunizations.  This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the Vaccines for Children program, which provides vaccines to children whose parents or guardians otherwise, could not afford them.

Each year, the Department supports public health agencies and healthcare providers across New Jersey as they hold special events to promote the critical importance of vaccinating infants and to improve the health of children. To view a full listing of events please visit: http://nj.gov/health/cd/documents/niiw.pdf

For the 20th anniversary of National Infant Immunization Week, the New Jersey Department of Health is encouraging public health and medical professionals to organize and participate in activities to promote timely, age-appropriate vaccination.

As part of National Infant Immunization Week, Department staff Jenish Sudhakaran, MPH, Jennifer Smith, MPH, CHES, and Elizabeth Zaremski, MPH, will participate in a webinar targeted to child care and preschool leaders, school nurses and administrators and local and state health departments to provide an overview on vaccine preventable diseases and New Jersey's school immunization regulations. This webinar is hosted by the New Jersey Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and New Jersey Immunization Network.

The National Immunization Survey has consistently shown that childhood immunization rates for vaccines recommended for children remain at or near record levels.  According to the 2012 National Immunization Survey, nearly 75 percent of New Jersey children ages 19-35 months received the recommended vaccine doses compared to the national average of approximately 72 percent.  These vaccines provide protection against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), hepatitis B and chickenpox. 

The VFC program has contributed directly to a substantial increase in childhood immunization and has made a significant contribution to the elimination of disparities. Last year, more than 1.8 million doses of free or low-cost vaccinations were given to children through the program.

National Infant Immunization Week will be celebrated as part of World Immunization Week, an initiative of the World Health Organization.  During World Immunization Week, 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.

For more information about NIIW, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/events/niiw/index.html.