Guest Commentary:

Community effort key to successful vaccination

Thu, Apr 20, 2017 (2 a.m.)

National Infant Immunization Week is an annual observance to promote the benefits of immunizations and to improve the health of infants and children.

Since 1994, local and state health departments, immunization partners, health care professionals, community leaders and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have worked together to highlight the positive impact of vaccination, and to call attention to immunization achievements.

When the NIIW observance was established in 1994, the nation was in the midst of a serious measles outbreak and communities across the U.S., including Nevada, were seeing decreasing immunization rates among children.

Over 20 years later, we’ve seen another national measles outbreak and we currently have an increase of pertussis (whooping cough) cases in Northern Nevada.

In support of Immunize Nevada’s work to increase Nevada’s immunization rates and reduce vaccine-preventable diseases, Gov. Brian Sandoval has proclaimed April 22-29 as Nevada Infant Immunization Week.

Several exciting immunization milestones have recently been reached, and we’re proud to celebrate those achievements. They include:

• The recommended vaccination schedule protects infants and children from 14 vaccine-preventable diseases before age 2.

• Nevada’s immunization rates for ages 19-35 months have increased 20 percent since 2007, with a historic 5.5 percent increase in 2016.

• Once 51st in the nation, Nevada now ranks 31st for our 19-35 month immunization rates, with rates almost near the national average.

• The National Immunization Survey has consistently shown that childhood immunization rates for vaccines routinely recommended for children remain at or near record levels.

Because of the success of vaccines in preventing disease, many Nevadans may not have heard of some of today’s vaccines or the serious diseases they prevent. 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.

Vaccine-preventable diseases still circulate in Nevada, the United States, and around the world, so continued vaccination is necessary to protect everyone from potential outbreaks. It’s easy to think of these as diseases of the past. But the truth is they still exist.

To have a healthy Nevada, immunization must be a shared responsibility. Families, health care professionals, employers, schools and public health officials must work together to help protect the entire community.

We hope everyone committed to promoting health and preventing disease will join us in celebrating the value of vaccines not only during Nevada Infant Immunization Week, but each and every day.

Heidi Parker is executive director at Immunize Nevada.

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