Public health pushing campaign for infant immunizations

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Southwest Public Health District's county health departments and farm worker programs are currently joining with counterparts across the country to emphasize the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases.

National Infant Immunization Week is an annual observance that, since 1994, has served as a call to action for parents, caregivers and health care providers to ensure infants are fully immunized against 14 vaccine-preventable diseases, officials with the public health district say.

"This year, NIIW is April 20-27," said Southwest Public Health District Immunization Coordinator Rebecca Snow in a news release. "Because of advances in medical science, your child can be protected against more diseases than ever before. Diseases that once injured or killed thousands of children have been eliminated while others are close to extinction, primarily because of safe and effective vaccines."

Polio, for example, was once America's most feared disease.

"It caused paralysis and death across the United States," Snow said. "Today, thanks to vaccinations, there are no reports of polio in our country."

Vaccines are considered by officials to be among the most successful and cost-effective tools available for preventing disease and death because they protect vaccinated individuals and also help protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of disease.

Diseases such as measles, whooping cough and mumps are still in circulation, but since they are rare in the United States, sometimes people tend to forget about them, health officials say.

"What we need to remember is that diseases are only a plane ride away, and once they are in this country, they put unvaccinated children at risk," said Snow.

In the long run, officials say immunizations can save families time and money as well as pain and suffering.

"A child with a vaccine-preventable disease can be denied attendance at schools or childcare facilities," Snow said. "Some vaccine-preventable diseases can result in prolonged disabilities and can take a financial toll because of lost time at work, medical bills or long-term disability."

"The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program is a federally funded program that provides vaccines at no cost to children from lower-income families."

Those seeking more about the VFC program or about immunizations against vaccine-preventable childhood diseases, can contact their respective county health department or go online to www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org.