By Nancy Messonnier, MD, MPH, Director, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW) is an annual observance to promote the benefits of immunizations and to improve the health of children two years old or younger, and is taking place April 16-23, 2016. Since 1994, local and state health departments, national immunization partners, healthcare professionals, community leaders from across the United States, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have worked together through NIIW to highlight the positive impact of vaccination on the lives of infants and children, and to call attention to immunization achievements.
Although infant and childhood vaccination rates remain high on a national level, there are local pockets of vulnerability where rates are lower at the city, county, or school level. These pockets may be at increased risk of experiencing outbreaks of vaccine-preventable disease like measles. The United States experienced a record number of measles cases in 2014, with 667 cases from 27 states reported to CDC.
CDC recognizes the important role that local health departments (LHDs) play in keeping their communities safe from disease outbreaks through surveillance, education, and administration of childhood vaccines. During NIIW, CDC encourages LHDs to educate parents, caregivers, and healthcare professionals in their communities about the importance of on-time vaccination of children under 2 years old. LHDs can also highlight gaps in local immunization rates and promote local immunization champions, such as the healthcare professionals, parent advocates, and communication specialists honored by CDC’s Childhood Immunization Award program.
CDC has created a robust suite of tools to help LHDs participate in NIIW. For example, you can:
- Post an NIIW banner or button on your website.
- Promote positive messages about infant immunization through your Facebook and Twitter accounts. You can find pre-written content here. Use #NIIW to participate in the discussion online.
- Write a news release, op-ed piece or letter to the editor of your local newspaper. You can find templates in the NIIW Media Relations.
- Establish an immunization education center in your office, at a local library, major worksites, or other walk-in locations. You can find free educational materials to download and print on CDC’s website.
- Present about NIIW at an already-scheduled meeting of employers, religious leaders, or media representatives, and ask them to get involved with your activities.
- Prepare and distribute newsletter articles for employers, neighborhood associations, utility companies, or other organizations with newsletters.
- Tell healthcare professionals in your community about CDC’s resources on how to communicate effectively with parents about childhood immunization. These resources were developed together by CDC, The American Academy of Pediatricians and The American Academy of Family Physicians.
CDC highly values the NIIW events that LHDs, coalitions and others implement at the community level. Please let us know about your NIIW activities by filling out this short form. With your permission, these activities will be posted on the NIIW website.
Thank you for your support of this important national observance. By working together, LHDs, states and the federal government have the power to keep our nation’s children healthy through on-time immunizations.