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August is National Immunization Awareness Month - 2002-07-25

The National Partnership for Immunization is sponsoring August as National Immunization Awareness Month (NAIM) in an effort to “raise immunization rates throughout the United States.”

The National Partnership for Immunization (NPI) is pushing hard to promote vaccination in all age groups, not just infants and children. Since 1990, immunization has been mandatory for children enrolled in U.S. public schools, which has brought the immunization rate among public school students to around 90 to 95 percent overall, according to a survey by the National Immunization Program.

Advocates of popular immunization declared a big victory last month when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Europe Polio-free, which, combined with the entire Western hemisphere and Western pacific, certified more than half of the world as being free of the disease. Nonetheless, many believe concerns about bioterrorism underline the importance of continued vaccination against all preventable diseases, even those that are supposedly eradicated.

The effectiveness of vaccination against disease is undeniable. For example, a rubella epidemic in 1964-1965 infected some 12.5 million Americans, but by 1999, there were only eight verifiable cases of rubella in the United States. In the 1920’s, between 100,000-200,000 Americans were being infected with diphtheria each year, yet in 1999, there was only one case. Clearly, immunization saves lives.

Internationally, the rate of immunization has not been as high, particularly in the developing world, and those diseases are still devastating in many areas. Thus, the continued importance of vaccinating against polio, diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus hepatitis-b and pertussis (whooping cough).