TRENTON -- This year’s National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW) takes place from April 25 through May 2. During NIIW, the New Jersey Department of Health is highlighting the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases and the positive impact of vaccination on the lives of infants and children.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that routine immunization of children born between 1994 and 2018 will prevent an estimated 419 million illnesses, 26.8 million hospitalizations, and 936,000 early deaths over their lifetimes, at a net savings of $406 billion in direct costs and $1.8 trillion in total economic impact.
“Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death,” stated Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.
“Maintaining childhood immunizations during the COVID-19 pandemic is important. Declining immunization rates could lead to a vaccine-preventable disease outbreak, which would place an additional burden on our healthcare systems in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. If a practice can provide only limited well-child visits, healthcare providers are encouraged to prioritize newborn care and vaccination of infants and young children (through 24 months of age) when possible,” she continued.
Protecting children through vaccination begins before birth. Pregnant women should receive the flu and Tdap (whooping cough) vaccines during each pregnancy.
Pregnant women should get a dose of Tdap vaccine during the third trimester of each pregnancy between 27 and 36 weeks, preferably during the earlier part of this time period. This will help protect babies from whooping cough until they can receive their first whooping cough vaccine at two months.
Ensuring access to vaccinations is an important part of maintaining the public’s health. Through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program, the department provides vaccines to partners to immunize uninsured and underinsured children according to the recommended immunization schedule.
In 2019, the New Jersey VFC program provided about 1.6 million doses of vaccines to providers throughout the state. This has contributed directly to a substantial increase in childhood immunization coverage levels, making a significant contribution to the elimination of disparities in vaccination coverage among young children.
Immunization coverage estimates provide the department with an approximate percentage of people in the state who have been vaccinated. According to the National Immunization Survey, New Jersey has reached or is similar to the Healthy People 2020 targets of 90 percent for children born in 2015-2016 by 24 months of age for the following vaccines:
3 or more doses of polio (3+ Polio) – 94.4%
1 or more doses of measles, mumps, rubella (1+ MMR) – 90.3%
3 or more doses of hepatitis B (3+ Hep B) - 91.8%
1 or more doses of varicella (1+ Var) - 88.8%
It is important to remind communities about the need to maintain high vaccination coverage rates to prevent the resurgence of certain diseases.
For example, there were 19 confirmed cases of measles in New Jersey in 2019. Additionally, over 1,200 individual cases of measles were confirmed in 31 states. This is the greatest number of measles cases reported in the U.S. since 1992. To date, there have been no confirmed cases of measles in New Jersey in 2020.
“Giving babies the recommended vaccines by age two is the best way to protect them from 14 serious childhood diseases. I encourage parents to ensure that their baby is up-to-date on all recommended vaccines. Talk to your child’s healthcare provider to determine how best to protect your child against vaccine-preventable diseases during the COVID-19 pandemic,” stated Persichilli.