New Jersey Marks National Infant Immunization Week

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STATE — During the week of April 21-28, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) will observe National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW), a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) initiative designed to raise awareness about the importance of childhood immunizations. Each year during NIIW, DHSS supports public health agencies and healthcare providers across New Jersey as they hold special events to promote the critical importance of vaccinating infants and to improve the health of children. Through immunization, infants and children can be protected from 14 vaccine-preventable diseases before age two.

“Vaccine Preventable Diseases can be especially serious for infants and young children. That is why it is important to follow the CDC recommended immunization schedule to protect infants and children by providing immunity early in life, before they are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases,” said Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd. “This week serves as an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of immunization programs and to raise awareness of age-appropriate immunizations.”

According to the 2010 National Immunization Survey, 66.4 percent of New Jersey children ages 19 – 35 months received the recommended vaccine doses compared to the national average of 74.9 percent. These vaccines provide protection against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), hepatitis B and chickenpox.

Due to the success of vaccines in preventing disease, parents often are unaware that children are at risk for so many serious and life-threatening diseases. Even when diseases are rare in the U.S., they can be brought into the country, putting unvaccinated children at risk. One example of the seriousness of vaccine-preventable diseases was the California whooping cough epidemic of 2010, which resulted in the death of 10 infants. Nationally, more than 21,000 cases of the whooping cough were reported in 2010. Additionally, the CDC reported last week that 2011 was the worst year for measles in the U.S. in the last 15 years with 222 cases reported. On average the U.S. experiences 60 cases of measles each year. 90 percent of the cases were traced to other countries with lower immunization rates.

“Vaccines are among the most successful public health tools available for preventing disease and death,” said Dr. Arturo Brito, Deputy Commissioner for Public Health Services. “For example, parents in the United States no longer have to worry about their children getting smallpox because of tremendous worldwide vaccination efforts. Hopefully in the future, parents may be able to trust that other vaccine-preventable diseases of today will no longer be around to harm their children.”

This year’s NIIW will be celebrated as part of the first World Immunization Week (WIW), an initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO). During WIW, all six WHO regions, including more than 180 Member States, territories, and areas, will simultaneously promote immunization, advance equity in the use of vaccines and universal access to vaccination services, and enable cooperation on cross-border immunization activities in April 2012.

For a list of New Jersey events being held in honor of NIIW, visit For more information about the NJ Vaccine Preventable Disease Program, visit:

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