August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM), a good time to elevate the importance of immunizations for the health of individuals and communities
An estimated 25 million children around the world missed their childhood immunizations last year due to the pandemic, the largest backslide in routine immunization in 30 years, according to UNICEF and the World Health Organization. In the U.S. childhood immunization rates also dropped to 94% in 2020 from 95%, a decline that continued into the 2020-21 school year, meaning tens of thousands more children in the U.S. are unprotected against certain diseases, according to the CDC.
The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to talk with their pediatricians this August during National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) about childhood and adolescent vaccines, so they can catch up on immunizations if their child has fallen behind schedule. It’s also an opportunity to ask questions about COVID-19 vaccines and make sure their child is protected before school begins this fall.
“Immunization rates for childhood vaccines are down, which leaves children vulnerable to whooping cough, measles, mumps, COVID-19, and more,” said AAP President Moira Szilagyi, MD, PhD, FAAP. “Falling immunization rates around the world signal that we could see more preventable disease outbreaks, as more people begin traveling once again. Your child’s back-to-school check-up is a good time to talk with your pediatrician about catching up on vaccines, including the COVID vaccine. Vaccines are safe and they save lives. Your pediatrician is ready to answer all your health and immunization questions.”
During August, the AAP will promote new and updated resources, including an updated interactive immunization map, “Child Vaccination Across America,” offering data on childhood vaccine rates state by state. This update will include tutorials to help teach users how to access this powerful tool and allows journalists and families to check local vaccine rates. Map data are collected from the CDC National Immunization Survey and are updated annually. Users can move the cursor over states to obtain current immunization data, and also quickly find out about disease outbreaks and vaccine gaps.
Other new resources include:
NIAM is an annual observance held in August to highlight the importance of vaccination for people of all ages. This year, just weeks after the approval of a COVID-19 vaccine for children under age 5, the observance offers an opportunity to urge parents to have important conversations with their child’s pediatrician about vaccines that can help them build immunity against COVID-19 and other diseases that are still circulating.
“The swift development of effective vaccines against COVID-19 is truly a scientific achievement. Now that the vaccine is authorized for children as young as six months, we can offer this protection to millions more children,” Dr. Szilagyi said. “If you have any questions about COVID-19 vaccines or the other immunizations that are recommended for children and teens, this is a good time to talk with your pediatrician so you can make sure your child is protected before school starts in the fall.”
For more information about NIAM, childhood vaccines and/or for an interview with a pediatrician, please contact the AAP.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults.