Infant immunizations important all year long

Published 10:00 am Tuesday, May 3, 2011

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’s NIIW was designated as April 23-30.

The Lawrence County Health Department Immunization Program wants parents to know that 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.

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Infants are particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases; that is why it is critical to protect them through immunization.

Each day, nearly 12,000 babies are born in the United States, and all of them will need to be immunized against 14 vaccine-preventable diseases before age 2.

Immunization is a shared responsibility. Families, health care professionals and public health officials must work together to help protect the entire community.

Immunization is one of the best ways parents can protect their children against serious diseases. Parents are encouraged to talk to their child’s doctor or local health department to ensure that their infant is up-to-date on immunizations.

Health care professionals play a critical role in educating parents about the importance of immunization and ensuring that infants are fully immunized.

Because of the success of vaccines in preventing disease, parents often are unaware that their children are at risk for so many serious and life-threatening diseases.

Vaccine-preventable diseases still circulate in the United States and around the world, so continued vaccination is necessary to protect everyone from potential outbreaks.

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 20,000 cases of the whooping cough were reported in 2010.

Although an old disease, whooping cough (pertussis) has had a resurgence in recent years.

While the routine childhood immunization schedule provides for five immunizations containing pertussis by the time a child reaches kindergarten, immunity begins to wear off as one grows older.

For that reason, Ohio now requires another booster against whooping cough (in a combined vaccine also protecting against tetanus and diphtheria) before entry into the 7th grade.

It is also recommended that adults get one of these combined immunizations (Tdap) in place of the routine tetanus booster recommended every 10 years.

Adults infected with pertussis often do not present with severe symptoms, or are not diagnosed, which makes them the primary threat to babies who have not yet received their full immunizing doses and in whom it is can be lethal.

Immunization is extremely safe. Vaccines are thoroughly tested before being approved for public use and monitored carefully by doctors, researchers and public health officials.

By preventing disease, vaccines also reduce the costs associated with missed time from work, doctor visits and hospitalizations.

For more information on current vaccines and recommendations, contact the Lawrence County Health Department at (740) 532-3962, the Ironton City Health Department at 532-2172, or your local healthcare provider.

Current, factual information can also be found on the internet at

Mary J. Holtzapfel, R.N., is the immunization coordinator at the Lawrence County Health Department.