By Emily Klein, Reporter
With this year marking the 25 anniversary of National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW) on Sunday, April 27–May 4, Madison County Health Department participated in the annual observance through community outreach and spreading awareness of the importance of vaccinations.
NIIW was established in 1994 in the midst of several measle outbreaks, the largest being in Illinois and Missouri. In response of recent measles outbreaks, Illinois Department of Public Health urged parents to talk with their health care providers to make sure their children are fully immunized. During the week, Madison County Health Department engaged with residents through social media to encourage families to come in and get vaccinated. Through Twitter and Instagram, the health department published posts during the week talking about the importance of vaccinations as well. Additionally, the county holds an immunization clinic that is open for walk-ins every week.
The immunization clinic, located at 101 E Edwardsville Road, is targeted towards infants, children and adults. Due to federal grant coverage, no child will be turned away for inability to pay for required childhood vaccines. The clinic is walk-in friendly, and it accepts Illinois Public Aid, Medicare, and many health insurance plans. The clinic gets a good amount of patients each week, and Madison County works to keep the immunization number high in the community.
Decades of increased vaccinations led to measles being eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, however as of April 26, 2019, there’s been more than 700 measles cases in the U.S. just this year. According to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this has been the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1994. Madison County Health Department Health Promotion Manager, Amy J. Yeager said that to prevent outbreaks, sticking to immunization schedules is key.
“It’s important to stay up-to-date with a healthcare provider to make sure you’re on track with immunization boosters,” Health Promotion Manager, Amy J. Yeager said. “Those vaccination schedules are one of those things to keep up on.”
While Illinois data doesn’t reflect the same trend, the U.S. has seen an increase in the number of children younger than two years old who aren’t receiving any vaccines mainly because of costs. The
Madison County Health Department works with Vaccines For Children (VFC), which is a federally funded program that provides vaccines at no cost for children who might not otherwise get vaccinated because of money issues. Madison County also does specific work for the community, for instance working with schools, partnering with VFC, and helping the community by answering immunization questions and providing the immunization clinic.
Madison County Health department frequently works with schools to answer questions about student immunization. They also do surveys through schools to make sure the county and state keep high vaccination rates. Higher vaccination rates leads to more protection from diseases. This results in herd immunity, which leads to the resistance of the spread of contagious diseases within a population that has a high number of individuals that are immune to a disease.
The Illinois Department of Public Health works with schools, community organizations, parent organizations and religious groups to find opportunities to provide vaccinations to the community. IDPH will now provide mobile health units to neighborhoods with low vaccination rates, and they will also work with community health workers and educators to help set up appointment times for vaccinations.
Additionally, IDPH will have events that support vaccination clinics and work to combat misinformation about vaccines through events, marketing and social media.
“Because of the success of vaccines in preventing disease, parents may not have heard of some of the serious diseases they prevent. Children can suffer serious illness and even death when exposed to diseases like measles, mumps, and pertussis,” stated IDPH Director, Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “Although vaccines are among the most successful, safe, and cost-effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death, some people still chose not to be vaccinated. It is essential that you protect your child against serious illness by having them vaccinated before they are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases.”
Through timely immunization, parents can protect infants and children from 14 preventable diseases before age two. While overall child immunization rates are high, unvaccinated children are at risk for contracting diseases some people might consider diseases of the past. Measles, for instance, may be uncommon and unheard of in the U.S., but it’s still commonly transmitted in many parts of the world.
“We hold steadfast to make sure we’re getting everybody vaccinated and to keep people from being at risk,” Yeager said.