It’s National Infant Immunization Week: Protecting against disease starts when we’re young

The recent measles outbreak is a good reminder of the importance of vaccinations. More than 160 Americans have gotten sick this year from a preventable disease that can cause serious illness or even death — and most were not vaccinated.

While protecting ourselves from contagious disease is a lifelong practice, it starts when we’re young. That’s why people across the country are celebrating National Infant Immunization Week April 18-25.

The observance promotes immunizations for children ages 2 or younger. It also recognizes the important role of vaccines and the workers at state and local health departments and other health professionals who give vaccinations to help safeguard our communities from disease.

Their contributions are remarkable. In the United States, we protect children and infants under age 2 from 14 vaccine-preventable diseases through immunization, including chickenpox, mumps and polio. Vaccines have dramatically decreased infant death and disability caused by preventable diseases.

Vaccines not only help protect vaccinated individuals, but also help to protect entire communities. A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that among children born during 1994-2013, vaccination will prevent an estimated 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths during their lifetimes.

While we celebrate this week in the United States, people across the globe are recognizing World Immunization Week, organized by the World Health Organization. Despite many successes in improving health, one in five children globally still misses out on life-saving vaccines.

Vaccines are safe and effective, and have saved countless lives. They are one of the greatest public health accomplishments. But we need to make sure we have an adequate supply to reach everyone. And, most important, you have to get immunized for them to work.

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