By Amy Pisani
As both a Rotarian and the director of Every Child By Two – Carter/Bumpers’ Champions of Immunization, my commitment to playing a small part in eradicating one of the world’s most frightening diseases stands firm. Today is World Polio Day and people throughout the world are voicing their commitment to putting an end to polio now!
Polio, a disease that few of those in my generation have any recollection of, spread terror through the hearts of families here in the U.S. and around the world until a vaccine was developed. Children were unable to swim in pools, oceans or lakes for fear that they would be “contaminated” with the virus. Sadly poliomyelitis mainly affects children under five years of age and 1 out of every 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis. Among those paralyzed, 5% to 10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.
I met Millicent, and her beautiful 11 month old twin girls Benita and Hilda, on a trip to Kenya organized by the Shot@Life campaign. While there, our team of observers witnessed the heroic efforts being made to contain a recent outbreak of polio in the Horn of Africa.
The trip to Millicent’s home, situated in one of the largest slum neighborhoods in Nairobi, was truly unforgettable. Our team consisted of three United Nation’s vans, driven by some of the most skilled drivers I’ve ever met. The roads throughout Kenya were a hodgepodge of traditional blacktop, gravel, and dirt roads that most would find insurmountable. Along the highways and local roadways thousands of men, women and children traverse dangerously close to traffic, many selling household necessities such as fruit, vegetables and clothing on blankets strewn along the roadside.
Millicent’s neighborhood is located in a slum called Korogocho, a Swahili term meaning “crowded shoulder to shoulder”. It is home to between 150,000 to 200,000 people pressed into 1.5 square kilometers (370 acres). This translates to approximately 473 people dwelling on one acre of land. The dwellings consisted of row after row of one story shacks built side-by-side as far as the eye could see. The walls and roofs consisted of miscellaneous scraps of rusted metal, wood and cardboard. Exposed nails protruded dangerously out from the walls and down through the low hanging eaves.
In order to reach Millicent’s dwelling, we had to jump across a stream of raw sewage, which winds its way along the main alleyway. Dozens of families were cooking food on open grills and fire pits as the mangy dogs ravaged through the sewers for scraps. During our brief hold in the vehicle, my team and I witnessed an older gentleman, who was unsure on his legs, stumble and fall into that horrifying muck. He was eventually rescued by some younger family members, but the impression will stay with me forever.
This guest post was written by Melody Butler, BSN, RN, and pediatric nurse. As the founder of Nurses Who Vaccinate , Melody has received various national honors, including the American Nurses Association’s (ANA) Immunity Award and the Elsevier ‘Superheroes of Nursing’ Award presented at the 2013 ANCC National Magnet Conference. Today she writes about her global health advocacy and the efforts she’s making to engage other healthcare professionals.
Sometimes, after a long night shift, the last thing I want to think about are patients and diseases. After spending 12 hours on a pediatric floor caring for sick children, I’m pretty tired and would be happy leaving ‘work at work.’ But as most nurses and healthcare workers will tell you, what we do isn’t a career or a job that stops when we clock out, but rather a calling and a ministry. It’s that sentiment that brings me to the global health advocacy I’m involved with long after I walk off my unit.
Thanks to modern-day medicine and amazing advancements in science, I rarely encounter patients who are suffering from vaccine preventable diseases. When I do care for these patients, their stories stay with me and I strive to prevent others from experiencing the pain they have had to suffer. These experiences motivate me to stay up-to-date on immunization education and news on infectious diseases. When I encounter patients and families who have concerns and questions about vaccines I know that I’ve worked hard to provide accurate information so that they can make the best decision for their health and safety.
In my desire to make sure my fellow nurses and I stayed current with the medical research regarding immunization, I initiated Nurses Who Vaccinate. I then partnered with amazing organizations such as Every Child by Two and Families Fighting Flu to help educate others through social media efforts that reach beyond my local community and extend throughout the nation, and even the world. I’ve learned that this year 1.7 million children will die from diseases that have all but disappeared in the U.S. Why? Because one in five children around the world does not have access to the life-saving immunizations needed to survive.
To address these global concerns, and work towards a solution, I became a Shot@Life Champion. In this role, I support the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign, which educates, connects and empowers Americans to champion vaccines as one of the most cost-effective ways to save the lives of children in developing countries. Expanding access to vaccines strengthens our ability to fight disease globally, improves economic stability around the world and even keeps our families healthy here at home.
I woke up today and realized that tomorrow is September 11th. Of course, this date conjures up a variety of emotions for me. From horror to heroism, to prayer and patriotism. Having a friend who died in the Twin Towers, and a husband who has served several tours in Afghanistan, it’s easy to see how the events of that historic day have made an indelible mark on my life.
In the days following September 11, 2001 I spent a great deal of time contemplating the massive loss of life and what we could’ve done to prevent it. As devastating as these atrocities were, I had to acknowledge that senseless tragedies day around the world, killing and maiming thousands of innocent people. But sadly, we often fail to do what may be necessary to prevent such loss. Since most of us rarely encounter loss on such an enormous scale, these tragedies are often overshadowed by what we consider to be more pressing concerns.
However, on this anniversary of September 11, 2001, I ask you to consider more.
Almost two years ago, in an effort to expand my immunization advocacy efforts, I became a Shot@Life champion and pledged to improve global vaccine access by educating, connecting and empowering Americans to help protect children in developing countries from vaccine preventable diseases. When I learned that millions of children die every year from vaccine preventable diseases – one every 20 seconds – I could only hope that my efforts to reduce these deaths would be successful. As in the days after September 11, 2001, I simply wanted to help.
Years ago I was moved by the way in which people responded to the loss and devastation of September 11, 2001 so I’m hoping people will extend that same level of compassion to others who are in need today. Following the fall of the Twin Towers, the burning of The Pentagon and the fiery crash in a field in Pennsylvania, Americans joined together to help those who survived and comfort those who had suffered the loss of their loved ones. Today, I challenge everyone to give in another way. Read more…
Amanda Peet, is an actor, mother, and Every Child by Two Vaccine Ambassador to the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign which educates, connects and empowers the championing of vaccines as one of the most cost effective ways to save the lives of children in the world’s hardest to reach places. Today, Amanda Peet contributes this guest post as part of Blogust, an initiative including 31 bloggers who will each devote one day of the month of August to write about moments that matter. For every comment on this post and the 30 other posts, Walgreens will donate a vaccine (up to 50,000 vaccines).
When our daughter Frankie turned 5, it felt like suddenly a window opened up to her future. We were flooded with thoughts of how her personality would start to unfold as she grew older, and of who she could become. At 5 we started to get a glimpse of who that person will be.
Our daughter has an active imagination and is very observant. Once, when she was about 3 years old, we were looking out our window in New York, and some of the skyscrapers down on Wall Street were poking through the low clouds. Gazing out the window, Frankie exclaimed, “The buildings have beards!”
It’s becoming clear she will have an adventurous personality, especially when it comes to food — already eating mussels, fish eggs and gnawing away on chicken bones just like her father and grandmothers. She is not only adventurous when trying new foods, but she also enjoys traveling to new places with her active parents. All of this could change, and most likely will, as Frankie continues to grow into a teenager and eventually a young woman.
Our kids, Frankie and Molly, have a world of opportunity available to them. Like all parents, we don’t know what those opportunities will be. We are so lucky that our kids will have choices: the choice to follow their dreams and the choice to shape their own milestones. In many parts of the world, the lack of vaccinations means kids don’t have the choice or the opportunity to reach as many milestones.
A child reaching the age of 5 is a significant health milestone in much of the world; it means that the child has a much greater chance of surviving to adulthood. Today, we are in Africa along with members of the Shot@Life team to observe UNICEF’s vaccinations teams at work. We hope to help provide parents and children around the world a chance to experience as many milestones as possible. Because moments matter. And comments count.
A child dies every 20 seconds from a vaccine-preventable disease. We can change this reality and help save kids’ lives! Sign up here for a daily email so you can quickly and easily comment every day during Blogust. Stay connected with Shot@Life at www.shotatlife.org, join the campaign on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. Thanks in advance for your comments and be sure to encourage your friends to get involved as well.
But would you comment more if you knew that for every comment you made someone would purchase a life-saving vaccine for a child?
How would you feel knowing that your comments are helping to give children around the world a shot at a healthy life?
Well, wonder no more.
Thanks to a generous donation from Walgreens and the amazing collaboration between the Shot@Life campaign and 31 special bloggers, we introduce Blogust ’13. In a blog post entitled “Passing the Torch”, Shannon Carroll explains how her involvement with Blogust last year resulted in 10,000 children being vaccinated. Now, as Blogust ’13 launches today the impact is expected to be even greater.
Every day in August, a writer will share a story about a young person who is important in their life or an experience of their own at a certain age. On August 1st, a 1-year-old’s story will be shared; on August 2nd, a 2-year-old; and so on, every day throughout the month. For every comment on any of the 31 posts, Walgreens Pharmacy will donate a life-saving vaccine (up to 50,000 vaccines) to give children around the world a shot at life.
As we mark the first day of National Immunization Awareness Month, we invite you to read, share, and comment on as many of the select Blogust ’13 posts as you can throughout the month. And if you need a subtle reminder, sign up to receive an email here which will provide you with the daily links to the newest Blogust post.
It’s really that simple. With Walgreens matching each comment with a vaccination for a child, be sure to comment every day and ask others to do the same. One comment = one vaccine and the potential to change a child’s life for the better. So, what are you waiting for. The first post is already up and waiting for you here.
As a mother and blogger, I can’t imagine anything more motivating to my advocacy efforts than to have the opportunity to hear actor, mother and Every Child By Two Ambassador to the Shot@Life campaign Amanda Peet speak about her commitment to vaccines this past weekend.
There have been many times when I have wished to be a celebrity. Not for the fame and fortune (thought undoubtedly that would be nice), but for the simple fact that celebrity status often affords one the luxury of an audience. And no doubt, Amanda Peet had an interested audience. Even if she wasn’t talking about what many would have expected.
In a session entitled Random Acts of Impact: The Power of Giving Back, Amanda, along with four other impressive women panelists, addressed a group of highly influential social media moms and women entrepreneurs at the Mom 2.0 Summit in California on Saturday. She explained how she uses her celebrity as a platform and is working to bring awareness of the importance of childhood vaccines. She emphasized how powerful it would be if others would also use their social media platforms to help promote immunizations and the Shot@Life campaign.
Her words were passionate, but what really spoke volumes were her actions. Amanda talked about how she began working with Every Child by Two on their Vaccinate Your Baby campaign over five years ago. At the time, Amanda was expecting her first child. While others were using their celebrity status to question the safety of vaccines, Amanda decided to take her questions directly to the medical experts and look at what the science had to say. After having her many questions answered and discovering various reputable sources such as the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and Every Child By Two, she realized just how important it was for children to receive all their recommended vaccines and she decided she that she wanted to help get the message out to others. Read more…
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. And when I think of all the images I’ve seen of children suffering from diseases all over the world I know it’s true.
One simple photograph can depict the terrible pain that a sick child has to endure. One glance and we feel the sorrow, fear and frustration of those who are impacted by disease. One picture illustrates that one child suffering is one too many. And now, one photo – your photo – has the potential to show your support for global vaccines.
With World Immunization Week only a month away, plans are being made for the Global Vaccine Summit which will be hosted by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and co-hosted by Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. To show the world that everyday, ordinary people care about global vaccines, Shot@Life is preparing a one-of-a-kind video to be shared at this year’s summit and we want you to be a part of that message.
To help encourage world leaders to continue to fund global vaccines, all we ask is that you snap a photo! Just take a picture of yourself holding up a sign saying, “Vaccines Save Lives”. Then email your photo to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject title “GVS Picture,” no later than March 29th, 2013, and your photo will be included in a special Shot@Life video to be shared at the summit. The signs do not have to be fancy and can be of any size, but feel free to be creative! While you’re at it, share your photo on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to encourage others to get involved as well. Just add the message, “I’m speaking out in support of global vaccines and you can to,” then link to this post or the Shot@Life blog for more details.Fortunately, immunization access is a very limited problem in the United States. However, we must acknowledge that immunizations only reach about 80% of the world’s children, and at least 23 million children miss their immunizations each year because they lack access to life-saving vaccines. The upcoming Global Vaccine Summit, organized by UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the GAVI Alliance, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will help ensure that we do everything we can possibly do to ensure that all children have access to critical vaccines.As a Shot@Life champion, I’ve realized that I not only have a voice, but I have a responsibility to use it for social good. I’ve also learned that when my voice is joined with the thousands of others who care about global vaccines it becomes too loud to ignore. Let your voice be heard and send us a photograph today. Let’s do whatever we can to improve global vaccine access and give children everywhere a shot at a healthy life.