Immunization: Is it an obligation, a right, or a privilege? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) believes it is all of these. Vaccines provide one of the most effective means of ensuring the health and survival of children. Parents in the U.S. are able to take the availability of childhood vaccines for granted, but that is not the case in all parts of the world. This year marks the first time that National Infant Immunization Week, April 21-28, is joined by World Immunization Week. The AAP takes this opportunity to remind the public that in many developing countries, immunization is regarded as a privilege, and many parents have little or no access to vaccines to protect their children. The AAP believes that every child in the world has the right to this lifesaving medical intervention.
Currently in the U.S., many parents of young children have never have seen a case of measles or chickenpox, and to them polio seems to be a disease of the distant past. But these and many other vaccine-preventable illnesses are still circulating in the world, and outbreaks of several serious diseases have occurred recently in the U.S. Infants should be protected by being immunized according to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the AAP, and other health organizations.
Family members and caregivers of infants also are encouraged to get up-to-date on their recommended vaccines in order to provide a “cocoon” of protection for the baby until he or she has received all recommended immunizations.
The AAP is offering an array of resources to help pediatricians, other health professionals, and the media to spread the word about the value of vaccines both domestically and globally. In addition to a wealth of information about the childhood immunization schedule and individual illnesses and vaccines, the Academy’s National Infant Immunization Week page provides links to audio and print public service ads and the Sound Advice audio series on immunization.
According to AAP President Robert W. Block, MD, FAAP, it’s important that parents follow the immunization schedule recommended by the AAP, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
“As a pediatrician, I want to be sure parents today recognize the importance of immunization,” Dr. Block said. “We are giving immunizations to protect children from diseases that you may not see on a regular basis, because immunizations have worked.”
Click here to view a video message from Dr. Block for parents about the importance of immunizations.
In addition to promoting immunization in the U.S., the AAP will focus on its advocacy and public awareness activities specific to global immunization on Thursday, April 26. The AAP is a partner with the United Nations and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Shot@Life, which will have a public launch at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta on Thursday. The AAP also partners with the ONE campaign and the Million Moms Challenge.
“Pediatricians are encouraged to support global immunization to reduce the risk of disease, disability, and death from vaccine-preventable diseases in children living in other countries as well as reducing the risk that these infectious agents will be imported back to the United States and cause outbreaks,” said Dr. Walter Orenstein, MD, FAAP, a member of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases.
The AAP is a member of the Immunization Alliance, a coalition of more than 25 national organizations that promote the importance of childhood vaccines. During National Infant Immunization Week, the Alliance encourages health care providers and parents to access the wealth of information about vaccines that is available from trusted sources. These resources can be used to foster effective communication about the importance of immunizing infants. Click here for more information.