By RACHEL C. DOVE
CHARLESTON - National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW) is an annual observance to highlight the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases and celebrate the achievements of immunization programs and their partners in promoting healthy communities.
Since 1994, NIIW has served as a call to action for parents, caregivers and healthcare providers to ensure that infants are fully immunized against 14 vaccine preventable diseases.
This year’s theme and slogan is: “Immunization. Power to Protect.”
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 be brought into the country, putting unvaccinated children at risk.
One example of the seriousness of vaccine-preventable diseases was the California whooping cough epidemic of 2010, resulting in the death of 10 infants. Nationally, more than 21,000 cases of whooping cough were reported in 2010. West Virginia had a total of 179 confirmed and probable cases of pertussis during that same year.
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.
Health care professionals remain parents’ most trusted source of information about vaccines for their children. They play a critical role in supporting parents in understanding and choosing vaccinations.
Parents of infants that are uninsured, underinsured (have insurance that won’t cover the cost of the vaccine), have Medicaid or that have WV CHIP can get their vaccines through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program at the local Health Department. The VFC program helps to eliminate financial barriers that might otherwise keep a child from being vaccinated.
Immunization Clinics are scheduled for children and adults at the Mingo County Health Department (MCHD), Tuesdays and Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information or to learn more about NIIW, call the MCHD at (304) 235-3570, or visit its office located on the second floor inside the Municipal Annex Building at the corner of First Avenue and Logan Street.