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National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW) is an annual observance to highlight the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases and to celebrate the achievements of immunization programs in promoting healthy communities throughout the United States. This year, NIIW is April 18-25, 2015.

The Department of Public Health Immunization Program is proud to announce that Dr. Bill Adams has been selected as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Childhood Immunization Champion for Massachusetts. The CDC Foundation and CDC hold this annual awards program to honor immunization champions across the 50 U.S. states, 8 U.S. Territories and Freely Associated States, and the District of Columbia during NIIW. For decades, Dr. Adams has been a champion for preventive health, particularly for young, high risk children from financially challenged and access-poor communities. He is an active advocate for improved Massachusetts immunization policy and funding, and a well-known educator for parents, physicians and policy makers.

Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death. They not only help protect vaccinated individuals, but also help protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases.  Among children born during 1994-2013, vaccination will prevent an estimated 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations, and 732,000 deaths over the course of their lifetimes.

Giving babies the recommended immunizations by age two is the best way to protect them from 14 serious childhood diseases, like whooping cough and measles. These diseases can be especially serious for infants and young children. That is why it is important to follow the recommended immunization schedule to protect infants and children by providing immunity early in life, before they are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases. Parents are encouraged to talk to their child’s doctor to ensure that their baby is up-to-date on immunizations. There are many ways to prepare for your child’s immunization, including making sure the child feels safe and secure.

Babies can be protected from whooping cough before they are even born. All pregnant women are recommended to receive the whooping cough vaccine, or Tdap, during the third trimester of each pregnancy to help protect their baby from whopping cough until he can receive his first whooping cough vaccine at 2 months. Parents should also encourage any other caregivers or close contacts receive the Tdap vaccine at least two weeks before meeting the baby.

Because of the success of vaccines in preventing disease, parents may not have heard of some of today’s vaccines or the serious diseases they prevent. Some diseases that once injured or killed thousands of children, are no longer common in the U.S. – primarily due to safe and effective vaccines. Polio is one example of the great impact that vaccines had have in the United States. Polio was once America’s most-feared disease, causing death and paralysis across the country, but today, thanks to vaccination, there are no reports of polio in the United States.

Vaccine-preventable diseases still circulate in the United States and around the world, so continued vaccination is necessary to protect everyone from potential outbreaks. Even when diseases are rare in the U.S., they can still be commonly transmitted in many parts of the world and brought into the country. One example of the seriousness of vaccine-preventable diseases is the increase in measles cases and outbreaks that were reported in recent years. In 2014, 644 people in the U.S. were reported as having measles. This is the largest number of cases in the U.S. since measles was eliminated in 2000. As of April 3, 2015, 159 people in 18 states and the District of Columbia were reported to have contracted measles in 2015. 117 of these cases are part of a large, ongoing outbreak linked to an amusement park in California.

So during this year’s National Infant Immunization Week, let’s remember that immunization is a shared responsibility. Families, healthcare professionals, and public health officials must work together to help protect the entire community. There are many programs and partners in Massachusetts working to insure high immunization rates in children, including the Department of Public Health’s Immunization Program, MA Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics (MCAAP), Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Nutrition Program, and many more.

Written By:


Immunization Outreach Coordinator in the Bureau of Infectious Disease

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