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National Infant Immunization Week Highlights the Importance of Childhood Disease Protection

Annual Observance is April 18-25

Raising awareness about the importance of childhood immunizations in protecting children, families and communities, New Jersey Department of Health State Epidemiologist Dr. Tina Tan will visit the Center for Health Education, Medicine, & Dentistry (CHEMED) during National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW), an annual observance held since 1994.

CHEMED, a federally qualified health center, will focus on boosting immunization rates in their clinic for those children birth through age two years with a goal of vaccinating approximately 600 children by the end of NIIW. This event will be held on April 22 at 11:30 am at CHEMED, 1771 Madison Avenue, Lakewood.

"Vaccine-preventable diseases can be especially serious for infants and young children. That is why it is important to follow the CDC-recommended immunization schedule to protect infants and children by providing immunity early in life, before they are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases," said New Jersey Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd. "This week serves as an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of immunization programs and to raise awareness of age-appropriate immunizations."

The Department provides access to vaccines for the uninsured and underinsured through the administration of the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program. In 2014, the VFC program provided approximately 1.6 million doses of vaccines to providers throughout the state.

New Jersey exceeded the Healthy People 2020 target of 90 percent vaccination coverage for polio, measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), hepatitis B, and varicella in this age group.

"While some infants are too young to be protected by vaccination, others may not be able to receive certain vaccinations due to severe allergies, weakened immune systems from conditions like leukemia, or other medical reasons," said Dr. Tina Tan. "To help keep them safe, it is important that all children and adults who are able to get vaccinated are fully immunized. This not only protects your family, but also helps prevent the spread of these diseases to your friends, loved ones, and community members."

The seriousness of vaccine-preventable disease was demonstrated recently by a dramatic rise in measles cases over the past two years. From January 1 to April 10, 2015, 159 people from 18 states and the District of Columbia were reported to have measles. Most of these cases are part of a large multi-state outbreak linked to an amusement park in California. The United States experienced a record number of measles cases during 2014, with 668 cases from 27 states. This is the greatest number of cases since measles elimination was documented in the U.S. in 2000.

In New Jersey, there have been two confirmed measles cases so far in 2015. Last year, there were three measles cases in the state.

New Jersey has also seen outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in recent years. In 2014, a total of 39 confirmed and probable mumps cases were reported to the Department, many of which were linked to two outbreaks, one among persons associated with the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey and another occurring nationally involving the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League. Since the pertussis (whooping cough) outbreak in 2011-2013, New Jersey has continued to observe a slight decrease in pertussis cases with 386 cases reported in 2014, compared to 406 cases in 2013 and 1395 cases in 2012. Reported cases of whooping cough vary from year to year and tend to peak every 3-5 years.

The CDC and the DOH recommends that pregnant women receive the whooping cough vaccine (Tdap vaccine) during the third trimester of each pregnancy to protect themselves and their newborn from whooping cough, which can cause serious illness with very young children.

"All parents, grandparents and caregivers should speak to their doctors about what vaccines they should receive to protect infants and young children they spend time with," added the Commissioner.

Each year during NIIW, NJDOH 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 more information about NIIW, visit http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/events/niiw/index.html
For more information about the NJ Vaccine Preventable Disease Program, visit http://nj.gov/health/cd/vpdp/

Last Reviewed: 4/20/2015