The annual observance of National Infant Immunization Week from April 23-30 is a chance for the health community to highlight the importance of protecting children from preventable diseases. Elsewhere around the world there are celebrations planned to increase awareness of vaccine safety and the benefits of immunizations. Infants are especially vulnerable to infectious disease and protecting infants from serious illnesses is a public health priority across the globe.
Pinal County offers free immunizations to children 18 and under to protect against 16 infectious diseases:
- Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
- Influenza (flu)
- Meningococcal disease
- Pertussis (whopping cough)
- Pneumococcal disease
- Rubella (German measles)
- Tetanus (lockjaw)
- Varicella (chickenpox)
In early 2007, Pinal County’s childhood vaccination rates hovered at only about 43%. The Board of Supervisors approved the creation of the Public Health Services District with the chief goal of boosting the childhood immunization rate. Today, 82% of children are protected, having received all of their recommended immunizations by 24-months of age. The county now boasts an immunization rate of 82%, which is above the national average.
“The importance of childhood immunizations is underscored by the fact that a fully immunized child is protected from 16 childhood diseases, many of which could be fatal. In addition, you are protecting the children they play with or go to school with by reducing the likelihood of disease transmission,” said Tom Schryer, Pinal County Public Health Director.
Immunizations prevent 10.5 million cases of infectious diseases and 33,000 deaths of children in the United States alone. In 2008, a preventable measles outbreak in Arizona resulted in 13 people getting sick, including one Pinal County child. The estimated cost was approximately $800,000 for Pima County to track, treat and prevent the further spread of measles.
Schryer said pertussis, or whooping cough, has made a resurgence in recent years, so much so that health officials are recommending a booster shot for any adults who care for or come in regular contact with infants and small children. Pinal County offers the pertussis vaccine free to children 18 and under. Beginning in mid-May, Pinal County will offer the booster vaccine to adults for $40.
For clinic locations and hours, please see http://pinalcountyaz.gov/Departments/PublicHealth/Pages/OfficeLocations.aspx. For general information, or to schedule appointments for vaccines, Woman Infants and Children (WIC), Well Woman HealthCheck, or other services, please call the central appointment desk toll free at 1-866-960-0633, Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM.