Warning: this might be a bit of a controversial post, depending on the audience reading it. Comments are welcome, but please keep them respectful.
One of my very first posts on this blog was called “Confessions of a Chiro wife” where I shared some very honest encounters I have as the wife of a Chiropractor. One of the biggest discussions surrounding my husband’s profession was on the topic of vaccinations and whether or not we vaccinate our children. Well, here’s the long and short of it:
Last week, I had the opportunity to take part in a very worthy, yet totally unexpected initiative called Shot @ Life. Shot @ Life (in short) is a global health initiative whose purpose is to provide the necessary funding to afford vaccinations for children in underdeveloped countries. Yes, you read that right- I was lobbying in support of vaccinations!
I was first introduced to this initiative 5 years ago through my moms’ group, Mocha Moms, Inc. This came to me at a time when I was going through my own personal battle with whether or not I would vaccinate my children and declined to participate in the initiative. To answer everyone’s questions, my husband, my kids pediatrician and I were able to work out a revised and delayed vaccination schedule for our kids and so, while they’re all fully immunized now, we made the choice to do it our way. The key word is “choice.”
2 years ago, I had a chance to visit my native post-war country of Liberia which was a life changing experience for me personally and ultimately gave me a complete change of heart and perspective. While my family lives in the more “urban” parts of Liberia, I also had a chance to visit the poorer villages and understand what life is like in these areas. I realized that my situation was apples compared to oranges in a 3rd world country and I was just too caught up in my first world problems to see it. Then, I became even more disturbed after learning more about the situation at hand and the actual facts and statistics. Like, for example…[Tweet “1 in 5 children around the world does not have access to the vaccines they need to survive.”] [Tweet “Around the world, a child dies every 20 seconds from a vaccine-preventable disease.”] [Tweet “The number of children dying every year from preventable diseases in developing countries is equivalent to nearly half the children entering kindergarten in the U.S.”]
So after learning all of this, my key takeaway was the fact that I, at the very least, had something so incredibly huge and that these mothers lacked – A CHOICE! I had the choice to debate over how I wanted my kids vaccinated, and then I drove just 10 minutes to the doctor to have it done on my schedule. These mothers / parents in developing countries don’t get that choice due to lack of funding for adequate vaccinations, lack of transportation to go to actually make it to a doctor, and then deal with an uncertainty of whether or not a vaccination that they will get was properly refrigerated and administered. What??!!! Not to mention the fact that I can still feel just a little cozy (for lack of a better word) with the fact that here in the US, with such a great healthcare system, most of these diseases can be treated, whereas they are nearly always fatal in these other countries.
My burning feeling as a mom, as a human, is that something needs to be done about this. And that’s what brought me to the Shot @ Life initiative.
A little background on the Shot @ Life initiative:
The UN Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign educates, connects, and empowers individuals to champion global vaccines as one of the most effective ways to save the lives of children in developing countries. The campaign rallies the public to advocate and fundraise for global childhood vaccines. Supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Shot@Life works to address this need by focusing in on 4 vaccine-preventable diseases that have the potential to save the lives of millions more children – Measles, Polio, Pneumonia, and Rotavirus.
So last week, I attended their 5th annual summit and lobbying day on Capitol Hill, where I learned a lot more about the initiative, heard some of the most compelling stories from survivors of these life threatening; then had a chance to visit and meet with the staff of key Senate members and House Representatives from the state of Georgia to ask them to help us in supporting this initiative.
It was an amazing experience and I’d be remiss if I left off the fact that through this opportunity, I got to meet such an inspiring group of young men and women who are also students from the Pharmacy School at Mercer University. They are also leaders of an organization called The Student National Pharmaceutical Association (SNPha) that is dedicated to serving the under-served communities across the nation and promotes leadership and diversity within the profession of pharmacy.
They were part of my lobbying group for Georgia on Capitol Hill and were such amazing advocates for change. After watching them in action last week, I can only imagine the great things they will achieve and changes they will bring to the world in the future!
Finally, I know many of you have your own initiatives that you would seek assistance for, but are unsure of how to go about the process. If you want change in your community, your state, country, or world, here is a step by step guide for how to become an advocate for change, along with the sample resources needed to reach your congressmen and women.