Dr. Melinda Wharton, director of the Immunization Services Division of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD) and the nation's chief immunologist, will visit Louisiana in advance of National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW), April 16 - 23.

Dr. Wharton is visiting Louisiana to support the Louisiana Shots for Tots Coalition efforts to promote the benefits of immunizations and to improve the health of children two years of age or younger in support of National Infant Immunization Week.

During Dr. Wharton's visit, Shots for Tots will launch an updated website that will feature enhanced immunization resources for both providers and parents. In addition to launching the new website, Shots for Tots will observe NIIW in partnership with the Louisiana chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics by sending personalized posters to providers throughout the state reminding everyone about the importance of childhood immunizations. To help remind new parents, Shots for Tots will also send magnets with a recommended immunization schedule to Louisiana's birthing hospitals, which will then distribute the magnets during NIIW. These projects will help remind providers and educate parents of the importance of immunizations, which save lives and reduce the prevalence of preventable diseases.

As a partner with Shots for Tots, the Department of Health and Hospitals' Office of Public Health's Immunization Program works with the coalition to help educate medical practitioners and families on the benefits of immunizations with the distribution of information packets to birthing hospitals and other partner groups around the state.

"Immunizations are about the best tool in our arsenal when it comes to preventative health care," said LDH Secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee. "I'm pleased to see the attention Dr. Wharton's visit is bringing to the importance of vaccination in fighting the diseases that could otherwise easily make many of our children sick."

While in Louisiana, Dr. Wharton will be a guest of Louisiana's Office of Public Health's (OPH) Immunization Program, which has arranged for her to:

  • meet with Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine students,
  • meet with the Louisiana chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics,
  • conduct grand rounds at Louisiana State University at Children's Hospital and
  • participate in a panel discussion and conduct grand rounds at Ochsner Medical Center.

Journalists are invited to meet Shots for Tots staff and Dr. Wharton at a reception hosted by the Louisiana Shots for Tots Coalition on Wednesday, April 13 at 2:00 p.m. at the JW Marriott in New Orleans, located at 614 Canal St.

The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state residents.To learn more about LDH, visit www.dhh.la.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's Twitter account and Facebook.