National Infant Immunization Week: Childhood illnesses climb with recent rise in vaccine hesitancy

Published: April 28, 2022 9:43 PM EDT
Updated: April 28, 2022 10:42 PM EDT

The week of April 24 through April 30, is National Infant Immunization Week and health services around Southwest Florida are promoting the benefits of immunizations for children from birth to two years old.

The Florida Department of Health says this annual focus on infant immunizations is an opportunity to educate parents, caregivers, and health care providers on the importance of childhood vaccinations. In addition, it is a call to action to ensure that all children are protected from birth against 14 serious childhood illnesses.

In 2020, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report discovered a significant drop in childhood vaccinations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That trend continues to be low, which is why it’s so important to stay on top of your children’s routine checkups and recommended vaccine schedules.

Healthcare Network SWFL pediatrics director Dr. Salvatore Anzalone says it’s time to get back on track.

“Even I have seen patients who have come into our practice and I haven’t seen them in a year because they were too afraid to come in, so we’re getting them caught up right now.” 
Dr. Anzalone explained.

Now is the time as we’re seeing worrisome signs like the recent increase in measles cases.

The World Health Organization reported a nearly 80% increase in cases during the first two months of 2022 compared to the same time last year.

Dr. Anzalone said, “As you get behind in vaccines, measles tend to be the one that kind of – because it’s so contagious – is the one you start seeing first. So if you’re behind in measles it means probably you’re behind in many others. It suggests that there may be brokenness within the system of immunizations.”

A break in the chain means there’s a heightened risk for the spread of other vaccine-preventable diseases.

Florida Department of Health in Collier County, 

Kristine Hollingsworth, said, “Chickenpox is one of these illnesses that everyone says, ‘well I had it as a kid, why does my son or daughter need that vaccine?’ but you’re not only preventing chickenpox for your child, you’re also preventing shingles for them as an adult.”

Dr. Anzlone says misinformation has created hesitancy for some parents. 

But he knows the benefits of vaccines far outweigh the risks.

Parents and caregivers are encouraged by the DOH to contact their health care provider to schedule their child’s vaccinations.

If you don’t have a health care provider, parents can contact your local Florida Department of Health office.