Let’s Prevent Infectious Diseases: National Infant Immunization Week

niiw-logo-color-englishBy Rebecca Gehring, MPH, Program Analyst, and Alyssa Kitlas, Lead Associate, Immunization and Infectious Disease, NACCHO

Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death. They help protect vaccinated individuals and keep entire communities safe by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases. While there have been huge strides in eliminating vaccine-preventable diseases, recent outbreaks of measles and pertussis (whooping cough) underscore the need for continued education and awareness about the importance of childhood immunizations.

National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW) is an annual observance that highlights the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases and celebrates the achievements of immunization programs in promoting healthy communities throughout the United States. NIIW is April 26–May 3; you can find events near you here.

What is your local health department doing to promote National Infant Immunization Week?

Immunization is a shared responsibility. Families, healthcare professionals, and state and local public health officials must work together to form an “immunization neighborhood” to help protect the entire community. Local health departments (LHDs) play a critical role in vaccinating and responding to vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks. Roughly 90 percent of LHDs provide childhood vaccinations. To make the most of NIIW, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a few strategies when planning activities in your community. LHDs should start with a good foundation. The CDC encourages LHDs to plan for the observance, build immunization partnerships at the state and local levels, find an immunization champion, and evaluate your programs to see what strategies are working best for your community. This week-long public health observance is a great opportunity for your LHD to meet some long-term immunization goals.

NACCHO supports LHDs looking to expand their capacity to successfully implement immunization programs in a number of ways. NACCHO has an online, searchable database of innovative best practices across public health areas. These practices allow users to benefit from the experience of their colleagues, learn what works, replicate successful strategies, and save time and resources. For updates, visit the NACCHO Immunization Project webpage and sign up for a bi-weekly Immunization and Infectious Disease Update.

Public health, medical providers, parents, and communities should recognize the successes and accomplishments that immunizations have had in preventing vaccine-preventable diseases. NIIW is a reminder that we have the tools to keep infants, children, adolescents, and adults safe and healthy.

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