Stressing the importance of infant vaccinations

This is National Infant Immunization Week. Michigan health officials and the I Vaccinate campaign are using the week to highlight the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases through immunization. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also has declared this Infant Immunization Week for Michigan.

“Infant Immunization Week comes at a critical time in Michigan, as we are currently experiencing a measles outbreak in the metro Detroit area,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief deputy director for health and chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “Immunizations are so critical to protecting the public’s health. Vaccination is the safest, most effective way to protect not only your child, but also your entire community, from vaccine-preventable diseases-including those who are too young or too sick to be immunized.”

“We are currently experiencing the second-worst measles outbreak to hit the U.S. since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000,” said Terri Adams, section manager for the Division of Immunizations with MDHHS. “Due to the success of vaccines, most people have never witnessed the devastating consequences that vaccine-preventable diseases have on a family or community — but those diseases still exist and when herd immunity is jeopardized, outbreaks happen. National Infant Immunization Week is an opportunity to talk to parents about the importance of vaccinating their children — not only to keep them healthy, but to keep others around them healthy, too.”

As of April 17, MDHHS has confirmed 43 measles cases statewide, including 40 cases in Oakland County, one case in Wayne County, one in the City of Detroit and one case related to international travel in Washtenaw County. Those infected by the disease range in age from eight months to 63 years.

Nationwide, 695 measles cases have been confirmed across 22 states, the highest number of cases since the disease was declared eradicated in 2000. Most people who have contracted the disease were not vaccinated.

Veronica and Sean McNally know better than most parents about the dangers of vaccine-preventable diseases. They lost their 3-month-old daughter, Francesca, to pertussis, also known as whopping cough, in 2012.

They since have founded the Franny Strong Foundation and I Vaccinate campaign to provide parents with the tools and resources they need to protect their kids from vaccine-preventable diseases.

“As parents, we want to do everything in our power to keep our children safe,” said Veronica McNally said. “It’s normal to have questions, but it’s imperative that you’re getting answers from credible sources. Talk to your pediatrician, visit your local health department and explore resources like IVaccinate.org, which provides Michigan parents with information and tools based on medical science and research to help them make informed decisions about vaccines and protect their kids.”

When 90 to 95% of a community is protected, it is nearly impossible for a vaccine-preventable disease to spread. When people and entire communities let vaccine rates slip, pockets of low vaccination create an environment where diseases can take hold and spread and serious health problems can surface in people who were not vaccinated — and in the small number of people who, for medical and other health reasons, can’t be vaccinated.

Since its launch, the IVaccinate.org website has been visited more than 190,000 times, averaging about 2,000 visits per week. The website includes recommended vaccination schedules, Michigan-specific resources and a frequently asked questions section, where parents can find answers based on credible medical research and sources to learn more.

The I Vaccinate campaign is a joint public-private effort of the MDHHS and the Franny Strong Foundation. The campaign highlights the medical consensus that vaccines are safe and effective at preventing disease and protect entire communities from outbreaks. The campaign aims to create a positive conversation about vaccines and the reasons why most parents do fully vaccinate their children.

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