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Immunizations are crucial

National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW), April 20-27, 2013, 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.

It is also celebrated as part of World Immunization Week, to promote immunization and advance equity in the use of vaccines around the globe.

Immunization is one of the best ways parents can protect their infants from 14 serious childhood diseases before the age of 2 years.

This segment of the population is particularly vulnerable to disease because of their young age and likelihood of more serious complications from illness. They are also the group most dependent on parents to assure their immunization needs are met.

Unless enrolled in daycare, for which Ohio requires certain immunizations, there is no “stopgap” such as that which occurs for older children when they are required to be up to date for shots prior to kindergarten enrollment. Why should you vaccinate?

Many parents believe that serious childhood illnesses like polio, diphtheria, and whooping cough are no longer around.

This is not the case. They are still prevalent in many countries around the world. In fact, children here can still get them if they are not vaccinated and come in contact with someone who has the disease, such as on an airplane flight or any exposure to other people who are not vaccinated.

The only reason these diseases are not widespread in the United States is because of our active vaccination program.

One example of the seriousness of vaccine-preventable diseases is the increase in whooping cough (pertussis) cases or outbreaks reported in 2012.

More than 41,000 cases of pertussis were provisionally reported across the United States during 2012, including 18 deaths. The majority of deaths occurred among infants younger than 3 months of age. This was the most reported cases since 1955.

In 2012, 55 cases of measles were provisionally reported in the United States. These caused four different measles outbreaks in U.S. communities. Measles is brought into the United States by unvaccinated U.S. residents and foreign visitors who get infected when they are in other countries.

Measles is still common in many parts of the world, including Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa. Measles spreads easily, and it can be serious, causing hospitalization and even death. Young children are at highest risk for serious complications from measles.

Vaccinating babies according to the recommended immunization schedule gives them the best protection against 14 serious childhood illnesses – like measles and whooping cough – before they are 2 years old.

The recommended schedule is designed to protect infants and children early in life, when they are most vulnerable and before they are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases.

Who pays for vaccines?

Most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccinations, but you should check with your insurance provider before going to the doctor. If you don’t have health insurance, or if your insurance does not cover vaccinations, your child is eligible for vaccines through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program.

The VFC Program helps families of eligible children who might not otherwise have access to recommended childhood vaccines. This federal program provides vaccines for eligible children at no cost for the vaccine itself, although an administration fee may apply.

These fees help providers cover the costs of giving the vaccines, including storing the vaccines and paying staff members to give vaccines to patients.

Children younger than 19 years of age are eligible for VFC vaccines if they are:

• Medicaid-eligible

• Uninsured

• American Indian or Alaska Native,

• Underinsured and vaccinated in Federally Qualified Health Centers or Rural Health Clinics and all Ohio Public Health Departments

A child that meets one or more of the above eligibility requirements is eligible to receive VFC vaccine. VFC vaccines cannot be denied to an eligible child if the family can’t afford to pay the administration fee.

In addition to the Lawrence County and Ironton City Health Departments, Lawrence County has nine VFC-participating medical practices. While both health departments are happy to administer vaccines when needed, parents may wish to seek out a VFC provider as their child’s pediatrician, as both the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics underscore that children are best served in many ways by a “medical home”, to which they go for all their healthcare needs.

In this way, if a child is at the doctor’s office for a sick visit or a checkup they can go ahead and receive any shots due without having to make another trip elsewhere. A list of these may be obtained by calling the health department at 740-532-3962.

Do you have questions about immunization?

• Talk with your child’s health care professional, contact your local or state health department, or call the CDC at 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).

• Visit CDC’s vaccine website for parents


Mary Holtzapfel, RN, is the immunization coordinator for the Lawrence County Health Department and the county’s designated MOBI instructor, a continuing program for physician practices that is designed to update and inform about current immunization information.