National Infant Immunization Awareness Week
Apr 23, 2010

By Christine Vara,
Next week is National Infant Immunization Awareness Week (NIIW) when efforts are made in hundreds of communities across the nation to increase awareness of the importance of immunization and to achieve immunization goals.  The week also provides an opportunity to celebrate immunization achievements, recognize successful collaboration and encourage better communication between parents and healthcare providers. With such ambitious goals, I wondered what type of events were scheduled to commemorate such an important week in public health. 
In reviewing the activities of specific states, I discovered onlya handful of states that have posted events on the CDC website.  While it appears that some states have not capitalized on NIIW to further their immunization efforts, others, like the state of Nevada, are extremely ambitious.  For instance, the Southern Nevada Immunization Coalition (SNIC) will offer 12 no-cost immunization clinics on various dates, with 5 focusing specifically on infants and children. These events will include health fairs and also feature lead testing, hearing and vision screenings, WIC, car seat safety checks, application assistance for Medicaid and Nevada UP, as well as other activities. 
At a time when there is a great deal of questions from parents regarding vaccines, I am surprised, and perhaps a bit disappointed, that more states aren’t utilizing NIIW as a focal point for discussion and public awareness of infant immunization.  While a national effort can certainly work to achieve the goals of NIIW, I believe that communication and involvement on a local level is critical to the effectiveness of the national campaign.   
The importance of state participation is clear, particularly when you consider the fact that many states have recently announced new requirements for school enrollment.  That point, coupled with the fact that children around the country are currently registering for fall Kindergarten, make it clear that good communication between parents and healthcare providers is critical. 
In registering my own child, I was surprised to discover that there were four new immunization changes in place this year for the state of VA.  Specifically, two of the necessary immunizations required that one of the four doses (of polio and DTaP) be administered after the fourth birthday.   According to my local school, this has caused some confusion amongst parents.  Upon first review, it may appear to a parent that the child’s immunization record is up to date since all the required immunizations were received.  However, to meet the new state requirements, certain immunizations need to occur within the specific time frame required and parents aren’t always aware of that.  
Through this example it is clear that there remains room for improvement in regards to communication regarding infant immunizations.  Hopefully, through the promotion of NIIW, we will hear about the immunization achievements met this year, as well as examples of collaborative events that can be used as a model in the future.  Surely there are some success stories out there and I hope to be able to share them with you.

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