Pediatricians Using Social Media For Good
Apr 26, 2013

As we wrap up National Infant Immunization Week, I want to acknowledge the many providers who continue to help parents understand the importance of childhood immunizations. While we may be fortunate to have a rewarding doctor/patient relationship with a provider in our local community, today’s technology allows us the unique opportunity to gain access to experts all over the country.

Just this week, I was reminded of the many pediatricians who are so passionate about children’s health that they are consistently working to share important immunization message far beyond the limits of their personal practice.  They represent a few of the most committed vaccine advocates we have in our online community.
McCarthyClaireAs a mother and pediatrician, Dr. Claire McCarthy, also known as MD Mama, wrote a passionate piece recently which asked, “If you believe in vaccines, can you speak up?”  She begins by highlighting the recent study that was released in the journal Pediatrics, in which researchers were able to determine the significant level of influence that our social networks have on our immunization decisions.  Yet, she didn’t stop there.  She goes on to make a heartfelt plea to parents everywhere in the interest of better public health.

“Those of you who immunize your children…could you talk about it? Can you tell people why you choose to do it? Can you tell them what your doctor has told you about vaccines, and what you’ve learned on your own? Can you let them know how you think about the risks–and how your kids handled their vaccines? If you’ve ever seen a child with a vaccine-preventable illness like pertussis (whooping cough), can you talk about that too?”

She goes on to say,

“You might not change anybody’s mind. But maybe you will. Maybe you’ll stop a child–or a whole bunch of children–from getting measles or pertussis or influenza, or meningitis or hepatitis or another vaccine-preventable illness.”
natashaburgertAnd then there is this inspiring story about fellow Shot@Life Champion, Dr. Natasha Bergert.  In the summer of 2012, Dr. Bergert challenged the families in her practice with her “I Hate Measles” project.  By asking for a small $5 donation, (which is all it costs to provide a child with lifelong immunity to measles) she garnered enthusiastic support for global vaccines. At the end of 12 weeks, she collected enough money to protect 1,348 children from measles with a grand total of over $6700 donated.

But that’s not all.  Now, she’s at it again!  She’s been using World Immunization Week to revitalize her commitment to global vaccines and rally even more support from the families she serves in her personal practice.  So far they’ve collected $1,500 for the cause and she is still hoping to receive even more contributions.  What a fabulous way to engage parents in an important global movement while also emphasizing the importance of immunizations for every child, including those in her very own practice.

SeattleMamaDoc_190x130Of course, there are also the collaborative efforts of people like Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, also know as Seattle Mama Doc, who spoke this week at a Town Hall in Seattle, along side Panic Virus author Seth Mnookin.  Together, they discussed vaccines, modern parenthood, and the complexities of navigating online vaccine information and misinformation.   Even though I live far from Seattle, it was wonderful to be able to listen to a recording of this special event here.  Dr. Swanson took this opportunity to discuss how her experiences as a mom have helped to fuel her passion as a pediatrician, while her involvement in social media has enabled her to communicate the importance of immunizations to an audience that extends far beyond her personal practice.

DrZibnersAnd let’s not forget Dr. Lara Zibners, who has so generously been addressing a variety of immunization-related questions for us here on Shot of Prevention.  We are continually receiving inquiries from our Vaccinate Your Family Facebook page and Dr. Zibners’ heartfelt responses are a welcome addition to our content.  Of course, should you have something you would like for her to discuss in an upcoming post, simply send us a suggestion at

While these are just a few of the many providers that use their online presence to engage in immunization education, we must also applaud the many others who comment on our content and work to further educate parents about important immunization issues throughout various Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and blogs.  I can imagine that being a doctor, in any capacity, demands a great deal of time and energy.  However, the level of dedication that these providers exemplify is simply inspiring.  
As a parent, if you want to learn more about vaccines than I suggest you tune into the many immunization experts that are already engaging with parents online.  It’s just important that you take some time to first identify who you can rely on as a trusted source of information.  Let me start by giving you a hint:  It’s not someone who wants to fill you with fear, sell you pricey books or supplements, or tell you what you want to hear.  It’s someone who will be willing to discuss the very-real risks of disease and the proven benefits of vaccines based on sound science, recent research and expert recommendations.  

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