Operation Immunization, an effort to raise awareness about the importance of immunizations and reverse declining vaccination rates among children, has launched in Monroe and other parts of Northeast Louisiana (Office of Public Health Region 8). The effort marks the official start of National Immunization Awareness Month and is an initiative by the Louisiana Office of Public Health’s Immunization Program and Region 8.

Operation Immunization aims to address the pressing issue of the downward trend in vaccinations among children entering kindergarten since 2020 in Louisiana by raising awareness and fostering community engagement. As part of the campaign, small white flags will be strategically placed along roadsides throughout the Monroe area, serving as visual reminders for individuals to ensure they and their families are up to date on their vaccinations.

Dr. Joseph Kanter, Louisiana’s state health officer, said that raising immunization rates is a goal the community should get behind.

"We encourage everyone to place a flag in your calendar or create a to-do list reminder to check your vaccination status and schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider,” Dr. Kanter said. “It is never too late to catch up on your vaccinations and protect your health. Vaccinations are crucial in safeguarding our health and protecting against potentially deadly or crippling diseases. By staying up to date on vaccinations, we not only protect ourselves but also our loved ones, especially the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.”

Dr. Tonya Hunter, regional medical director for OPH Region 8 (Northeastern Louisiana), said the region falls below the statewide average for almost all vaccinations.

For Region 8, data from the Office of Public Health shows:

  • Nine of the 12 parishes have lower vaccination rates than the statewide average for the common childhood vaccines series at age 2.
  • For the HPV vaccine, all 12 parishes are below the statewide average.
  • For adult flu vaccinations, all 12 parishes are below the statewide average

“There is some good news,” Hunter added. “Over the past year, almost every parish in northeast Louisiana has improved its vaccination rates for 2-year-olds compared to the previous year.”

Hunter added, “By working together, this region’s communities can create a stronger and healthier environment for everyone. Operation Immunization provides an opportunity to build stronger immunities and ensure a safer future for everyone.”

Immunization Awareness Month, observed nationally, serves as a timely reminder as schools begin a new year for individuals of all ages to prioritize their vaccination needs.

For more information about recommended vaccinations and how you can contribute to the success of Operation Immunization, visit immunizations.la.gov.