Before we even dig in, I want you to watch this video from the Shot at Life campaign. It’s 1:38 seconds and it will make you cry.
Good? That’s why we’re talking about vaccines.
A couple of years ago I was thrilled to be a part of the online blogging relay #Blogust to raise awareness of childhood vaccination rates and disease prevention. Since then I’ve been delighted to be involved as a Social Good Fellow and ambassador for Shot@Life. What’s Shot@Life? Well, it’s amazing. And last month I had the chance to go to Washington, D.C. to lobby on Capitol Hill on behalf of this amazing global campaign, and to learn more about Shot at Life and why the work we’re all doing is so critical to saving millions of lives.
Vaccinations are a tricky debate in the United States, and the fact that we’re even having a debate shows our privilege. Millions of mothers across the world would give anything to have that opportunity.
I’m a huge proponent of vaccinations, for a myriad of reasons, one of which is the fact that I have a terrible immune system and rely on “herd immunity” to survive communicable diseases. I understand all too well the gift of available, affordable vaccinations and how critical they are for ME to survive. I have the resources to vaccinate both myself and my children, and it’s so easy to do we don’t realize sometimes how important it is to global health.
It’s easy to forget that there are children all over the globe dying every day from vaccine-preventable diseases, especially when we don’t see them dying in front of us, and because we aren’t the parents or family or even the neighbors of the dying children. It isn’t our world.
Did you know that every 20 SECONDS a child dies from a vaccine-preventable disease? Every TWENTY seconds. Those are real children with real parents, and their deaths are horrible and genuinely and easily preventable and really inexpensive.
Because I’m so passionate about this, I joined almost 200 other Shot@Life ambassadors last month to lobby on Capitol Hill and raise awareness about the diseases killing children all over the world. I’d love to share some of the eye-popping statistics we shared with our congressional representatives with you as well. I was gobsmacked by the numbers, and the real life stories of what vaccinations can do, and what happens when children don’t get them.
First of all, let’s talk about my new friend, Minda. In Washington, D.C. I met fellow Shot@Life champion Minda Dentler, (far left in the photo above) an American mom, accountant, and triathlete who was adopted from India as a child after she’d contracted Polio. She’s paralyzed from the waist down, and uses leg braces or a wheelchair to get around. She completes triathlons using just her upper body (GUYS. talk about amazing.), and advocates for global vaccinations because she’s one of those children whose entire life is different because she didn’t get a polio vaccine as a kid. As you can imagine, Minda’s very passionate about global vaccinations.
Polio is one of the diseases nearly eradicated by vaccines, which was nearly unthinkable only a generation ago. The only countries with current endemic polio are Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the reason it isn’t completely eradicated in those countries is because of political strife. All over the world, kids like Minda are offered a whole new Shot at Life (get it??) because they’ve received vaccinations.
Another illness, measles, which was widespread only a few decades ago, (even with my siblings 10 years older than myself) is down 79% since the year 2000. 17.1 MILLION lives have been saved with the measles vaccine. That’s not just a statistic, that’s 13 deaths per hour prevented. And okay, that is a statistic, but it’s a handful of numbers that affect real humans.
It only takes $20 to prevent one child against several infectious diseases. $20, guys. I spent more than that on the new Adele album for Christmas, and I’m willing to bet you’ve spent $20 at Starbucks or Target in the last week alone.
The other thing that’s important to know about vaccinations, the thing I was talking about when I said “herd immunity”, is that it takes 95% vaccination rates to prevent the spread of a disease. So it’s really important to maintain vaccinations in the countries where the diseases are already eradicated to keep them under control.
Another eye-popping statistic that will make you want to get involved with Shot at Life ASAP? In America 2/1000 people die from a disease like the measles. Would you like to know how many people die in developing nations when they contract the disease? 25 PERCENT. One in four people you know would be dead right now without the vaccine.
So, probably someone in your family. Or maybe your best friend.
Okay, now that we’ve talked about frightening statistics that will make you want to get involved, how do you do it? I’m here to help!
The month of April is actually really critical for the funding of organizations like Shot at Life. All sorts of financial policy making decisions are happening RIGHT NOW in Washington, D.C. and getting involved by letting your representatives know you’d like money allocated for this organization is so important.
Awareness is huge. I’ve been involved with Shot at Life for a few years now, and I was still overwhelmed by the amount of information I learned in D.C. about the benefits of global vaccinations. It’s not just a global issue, it’s a domestic one; it costs more money to fight diseases than to prevent them, and that includes maintaining disease free borders in the United States. Any awareness about global vaccinations you can bring to lawmakers involved in making these decisions saves lives. Period.
Get involved with the current Advocate2Vaccinate campaign (happening right this minute), and/or apply to become a Shot at Life champion along with me and almost 1,000 other warriors AND donate money for life saving vaccines.