National Infant Immunization Week Highlights the Importance of Vaccination for a Resilient Community

HHS, CDC National Infant Immunization Week April 18-25, 2015 button imageNational Infant Immunization Week, April 18-25, is an annual observance to highlight the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases and celebrate the achievements of immunization programs and their partners in promoting healthy and resilient communities. Hundreds of communities across the United States have joined together to celebrate the critical role vaccination plays in protecting our children, communities, and the public’s health. Staying updated with infant and childhood immunizations is especially important for disaster preparedness and response efforts. Infant immunizations prevent infectious diseases from spreading and provide a foundation for future community resilience, as people in good health are likely to be more resilient after a disaster.

Advancements in developing electronic Immunization Information Systems (IIS), or immunization registries, have also helped increase community resiliency and expedite recovery by making patients’ immunization records more easily available after a disaster. IIS provides an important way to secure immunization information and 85% of local health departments have implemented use of an electronic immunization registry.[1] Even without a disaster causing displacement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that by two years of age, over 20% of the children in the United States typically have seen more than one healthcare provider. This can result in scattered paper medical records; IIS helps providers and families by consolidating immunization information into one source that can be accessed anywhere by any participating providers.[2]

Having immunization records available electronically was especially critical following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Many people did not have time to take their paper medical records with them and those without electronic medical records lost access to their immunization records. Although displaced children were initially exempt from state school immunization laws, complete revaccination would be required once the temporary exemption was lifted if children were to re-enroll in school.

Fortunately, the Office of Public Health at the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals had begun to implement its Louisiana Immunization Network for Kids Statewide (LINKS) in July 2001. In four years, 81% of Louisiana children under six years of age had at least two immunizations recorded in the system.[3] In Houston, the use of LINKS proved to be beneficial within days after Hurricane Katrina when an influx of displaced people began to arrive. The Houston-Harris County Immunization Registry was able to connect to LINKS and receive immediate access to 19,000 immunization records of displaced children.[4]

A Journal of Public Health Management and Practice article from 2007 estimates that preventing a complete revaccination of the 21,000 children and adolescents displaced by Hurricane Katrina by obtaining immunization records resulted in cost savings of nearly $4.6 million.[5] Local health departments involved in the response to Hurricane Katrina reported that LINKS enabled providers to have the data they needed in order to provide the most appropriate immunizations and avoid giving unnecessary immunizations. The IIS experiences during Hurricane Katrina demonstrated the previously unrecognized and critical functionality of IIS in a public health emergency.

Investing in IIS and promoting the benefits of infant immunization can expedite recovery and increase community resiliency after a disaster. Local health departments can integrate IIS into their preparedness plans and highlight how infant and childhood immunizations provide a foundation for a more prepared and resilient community.

Visit the National Infant Immunization Week website for materials and to learn how to get involved.


  1. NACCHO. (2013). The 2013 National Profile of Local Health Departments. Available at http://nacchoprofilestudy.org/
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Immunization information systems. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/programs/iis/index.html
  3. Urqhart, G.A., Williams, W., Tobias, J., and Welch, F.J. (2007). Immunization Information Systems use during a public health emergency in the United States. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, 13(5), 481-485. Available at http://www.stchome.com/media/misc/2007-jphmp-urquhart-iis-use-during-hurricane-katrina.pdf
  4. Boom, J.A., Dragsbaek, A.C., and Nelson, C.S. (2007). The success of an immunization information system in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Pediatrics 119(6): 1213-1217. Available at http://bit.ly/1GepVZe
  5. Urqhart, G.A., Williams, W., Tobias, J., and Welch, F.J. (2007). Immunization Information Systems use during a public health emergency in the United States. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, 13(5), 481-485. Available at http://www.stchome.com/media/misc/2007-jphmp-urquhart-iis-use-during-hurricane-katrina.pdf

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