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Health care officials recognize National Infant Immunization Week

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Recognizing this week as National Infant Immunization Week, community members and professionals gathered for a news conference at Sacred Heart Early Learning Center on April 28.

Letitia Tierney, commissioner and state health officer for the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health, attended the conference to discuss the importance for infants and young children to get vaccinated.

Tierney said it is important for the public to understand how important immunizations are to children in the state, especially in light of recent outbreaks of measles and mumps in Ohio.

West Virginia immunization rates are the second lowest for children younger than two, while the state has one of the highest rates of immunizations for school-aged children.

Officials said ensuring children receive the recommended immunizations by 2 years old is the best way to protect them from 14 serious childhood diseases including Diphtheria, Hepatitis A/B, Influenza, Measles, Rotavirus, Haemophilus type B, Tetanus (Lockjaw), Mumps, Pertussis (Whooping Cough), Pneumococcal Disease, Polio, Rubella (German Measles) and Varicella (Chickenpox).

Tierney said there is medical evidence that says if a child is immunized before the age of two they can be healthier.

“We need to do this in a way that makes it affordable to the mass majority,” Tierney said. “It’s a lot easier on the child to follow the prescribed course.”

Jeff Neccuzi, director of the Vaccines for Children program, said the program guarantees free vaccines for eligible children. To be eligible children must be enrolled in Medicaid, not have insurance or are underinsured.

“West Virginia has some unique issues, particularly in health care,” Neccuzi said. “It’s likely we have fewer pediatricians than other states.”

Neccuzi said a lot of the state’s children receive care from family doctors who may not immunize infants as aggressively as pediatricians.

West Virginia also has problems with getting care to the rural parts of the state. Neccuzi said because there is no public transportation in rural counties, some are lacking in the proper care when it comes to immunizations and health care.