Last week, we hosted our 24th annual Arizona Immunization Conference. About 400 partners from doctor’s offices, healthcare clinics, and state, local, and tribal agencies came together to learn and share best practices and current information about vaccination. These immunization heroes devote their time daily to ensure they are shielding Arizona communities from dangerous vaccine preventable diseases.

We were fortunate to have CDC subject matter experts to provide a national picture of immunization trends and inspire our immunization heroes with a summary of the positive impact of vaccines. For example, CDC estimates that vaccination of children born between 1994 and 2016 will prevent 381 million illnesses and avoid 855,000 early deaths.

Our partners were also presented with hero-themed breakout sessions led by many of our own ADHS staff and local and federal partners. Many of these sessions focused on the mechanics of vaccine storage, handling, inventory and reporting, which are all critical to ensure that the vaccines administered in Arizona are effective and that we have data to understand immunization trends. Compelling talks on the tragic impacts of vaccine-preventable diseases and considerations for special populations like healthcare workers, immunocompromised individuals, and pregnant women shed light on specific vaccination areas where we can make a large impact for vulnerable members of our community.

While immunization rates are high in Arizona overall, we still have room for improvement. Many pockets across our state exist in which immunization rates are not high enough to protect community members against vaccine preventable disease outbreaks. We continue to see these outbreaks every year. However, we are encouraged by the commitment of all of our heroic partners who continue to fight disease by promoting and providing vaccinations to our communities.