By STACY HALL, RN, MSN | Immunization Program Director, LDH Office of Public Health
Vaccines are safe, effective and prevent disease, yet only 72% of infants in Louisiana are up to date with immunizations. Vaccination protects the child and entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of serious infectious diseases. Please join me in celebrating National Infant Immunization Week to highlight the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases and promoting healthy communities in Louisiana and throughout the United States. This year, National Infant Immunization Week will be April 27 to May 4.
Because of the success of vaccines in preventing disease in the U.S., parents may not have heard of some of today’s vaccines — including the inactivated polio vaccine and DTaP vaccine — or the serious diseases they prevent. These diseases can be especially severe for infants and young children. Protection begins before a baby is even born. Learn more about the importance of maternal vaccination at www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pregnancy and follow the recommended immunization schedule to protect infants before they encounter potentially life-threatening diseases.
Vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and whooping cough still circulate in the United States and around the world, so continued vaccination is necessary to protect everyone from potential outbreaks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared measles eliminated from the United States in 2000, but the disease has made a comeback because of mistrust regarding the safety of vaccination. The second-greatest measles outbreak since elimination is ongoing, with over 450 cases in 19 states since January 1, 2019. Information on this measles outbreak, vaccination recommendations and resources are available at www.cdc.gov/measles.
2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the Vaccines For Children (VFC) program. VFC is a federally-funded program that provides vaccines at no cost to children who might not be able to afford the shot. The VCF program helps children get their vaccines according to the recommended immunization schedule. It has helped increase childhood immunization coverage levels, making a significant contribution toward making coverage more equal among young children.
Healthcare 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, and will help keep children up to date on vaccinations and work with parents to get their child caught up if they fall behind. The Louisiana Department of Health’s Healthy Babies Don’t Wait, Vaccinate webpage can help you find a VFC provider in Louisiana.
National Infant Immunization Week is a reminder of the importance of keeping up to date with vaccinations. Louisiana can do better than not protecting more than a quarter of our babies with timely immunizations. See how the infants in your parish are doing here.