During National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW), the New Jersey Department of Health is highlighting the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases and celebrating the achievements of immunization programs in promoting healthy communities throughout the United States.
“Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death,” Acting Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett said. “Vaccines not only help protect immunized individuals, but also help protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases.”
Each year during NIIW, the Department supports public health agencies and health care providers across New Jersey as they hold special events to promote the critical importance of vaccinating infants and improve the health of children. To view a full listing of events, visit http://www.nj.gov/health/cd/index.shtml.
Through immunization, infants and children are protected from 14 vaccine-preventable diseases before age two.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that vaccination will prevent an estimated 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations, and 732,000 deaths among children born in the last 20 years.
According to the 2014 National Immunization Survey, New Jersey reached the Healthy People 2020 target of 90 percent for polio, hepatitis B, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), and varicella vaccination coverage for children aged 19-35 months.
In addition, the Department provides access to vaccines for the uninsured and underinsured through the administration of the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program. The VFC program helps children get their vaccines according to the recommended immunization schedule and has contributed directly to a substantial increase in childhood immunization coverage levels, making a significant contribution to the elimination of disparities in vaccination coverage among young children. In 2015, the New Jersey VFC program provided about 1.6 million doses of vaccines to providers throughout the state.
“To protect infants who are too young to be vaccinated, it is also important for caregivers to be vaccinated,” Deputy Commissioner Dr. Arturo Brito said. “Protecting babies from whooping cough begins before a baby is even born. All pregnant women are recommended to receive the vaccine that protects against whooping cough during the third trimester of each pregnancy to help protect their baby until the infant can receive his first whooping cough vaccine at 2 months.”
The seriousness of vaccine-preventable diseases was demonstrated recently by a dramatic rise in measles cases over the past few years. From January 2 to April 1, 2016, 4 people from 3 states (California, Georgia, and Texas) were reported to have measles. In 2015, the United States experienced a large, multi-state measles outbreak linked to an amusement park in California (189 people from 24 states and the District of Columbia were reported to have measles). The majority of people who got measles were unvaccinated.
In 2015, New Jersey had three confirmed cases of measles. None of these cases had any identified connection to the measles outbreak associated with Disneyland in California.
Additional information and resources to prepare for NIIW can be found on the CDC web site at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/events/niiw/index.html.
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