Making a Difference: How Soon is Now?

HOW SOON IS NOW?

When I was running recently, the lyrics to one of the songs on my Playlist were “How Soon is Now?”

Since I became a Shot at Life Champion in 2013, and a Champion Leader in late 2014, I have learned a lot about vaccine-preventable diseases and the potentially fatal barriers children face in many countries. I have met incredible people, and seen I have seen government “at work.”

If it were up to me, I would take a plane across the world and personally administer a child in Nigeria, Afghanistan, or Pakistan, the three countries where polio still exists, a life-saving vaccine. I would put together the $20 worth of vaccines that will give lifetime immunity from measles, polio, pneumonia, and diarrhea to the children who are currently dying every 20 seconds from those diseases and just do it.

The problem: simply vaccinating children is not simple.

Simply vaccinating children takes the intricately coordinated efforts of people in the affected countries, manufacturers who make the vaccines, vehicles who transport the vaccines, copious amounts of funding, and an alphabet soup of accounts and programs including UNICEF, GAVI, CDC, and USAID. “Simply” vaccinating children a world away takes the involvement of us here in the United States. Although there are many reasons, three of the main ones are:

  • the existence of these diseases anywhere is a threat to children everywhere (as we have seen with recent US-based measles outbreaks)
  • prevention is infinitely more cost effective than treatment
  • it is the right thing to do.

As a Champion and Champion Leader, I have had many great experiences in two short years:

Two Shot at Life Summits in Washington DC

Making a Difference: How Soon is Now?

With fellow champions Nicolette Springer and Sili Recio in March 2014

Meetings in the Washington, DC, offices of my Senators and Representatives

Meetings in the Tallahasssee, FL offices of my Senators and Representatives

In-Depth training on vaccine-preventable diseases, advocacy methods, and communication strategy

Meeting Jo Frost of Supernanny fame

Making a Difference: How Soon is Now?

Meeting other Shot at Life Champions who are hands down among the most committed, intelligent, creative, funny people on the planet

Making a Difference: How Soon is Now?

Publication of two Op-Eds, including this one, and a Letter to the Editor in the Tallahassee Democrat

An appearance on WTXL to discuss World Immunization Week 2014 (tune in again on Monday, April 27, between 6 am and 7 am for this year’s appearance!)

In the midst of all these opportunities, I can grow frustrated though. It is easy for doubt to seep in:

  • How will this lovely hotel luncheon/fancy hors d’ouerves event/[insert very first-world goodie or experience here] make a difference?
  • How will that e-mail, letter, phone call, or tweet I sent to my legislator matter?
  • How can I, “just a mom,” do anything for that child in Pakistan?

I recently read A Simple Idea With Huge Potential by Mark Miller, and his post helped me channel those worries in a different, more productive way. Mark described a plan to accelerate his team’s performance by “assigning a champion to each large body of work.” Among the attributes expected of his “champions” was this:

Ensure the work gets done. 

I may not be able to travel to Pakistan to vaccinate a child personally, but I can develop the expertise to make sure our government supports the President’s budget fully so that funding and support for critical global health and global vaccine programs is sustained.

I can inform, advocate, and fundraise for the cause of global vaccination.

I can recruit fellow committed, intelligent, creative, funny people to join me. Heck, you don’t even have to be funny!

We are holding a Champion Training this Wednesday night, April 29, from 8-9:30 p.m.. Please join us, even if you aren’t sure you want to commit to being a champion. It will be a fantastic opportunity to learn more! Click this link to sign up and get on the distribution list for the April 29 call.

I may not be able to completely fix the problem now, but I can commit to being a champion for ensuring the work gets done.

WHO WANTS TO JOIN ME?

Making a Difference: How Soon is Now?

Shot@Life–UN Foundation, Mozambique, Wednesday, June 1, 2011 (Photo/Stuart Ramson)

I am joining my fellow Shot at Life Champions in Advocate 2 Vaccinate, a coast-to-coast challenge for global vaccination that coincides with World Immunization Week (April 24-30). I am pleased to be joining several of them in a blog relay. Here’s the lineup:

Friday, April 24: Jennifer DeFranco with Let the Relay Begin…S@L, A2V, and Me! 

Friday, April 24: Nicole Morgan with Want to be a Super Hero?

Saturday, April 25: Nicolette Springer with Advocate to Vaccinate: You Can Be a Champion! 

April 26 – Pam Brown Margolis with It’s World Immunization Week! Let’s Keep My Little Readers Healthy #vaccineswork #WIW15 and ME!

April 27 – Cindy Levin with Many Actions Save Many Lives

April 29 – Ilina Ewen with Advocate2Vaccinate During World Immunization Week

April 30 – Andrea Bates with Advocate2Vaccinate: World Immunization Week

Felisa Hilbert also wrote about her champion experience in The Power of One.

Making a Difference: How Soon is Now?

Taking A Shot At Indifference

Measles Crying Child

Health worker Ronnie Tut prepares to administer a measles vaccine to 1-year-old Jessica María Pop, an indigenous Mayan girl sitting on her mother’s lap, at a health centre in the community of Sacanillá, in Cobán Municipality in Alta Verapaz Department, Guatemala.
Credit : © UNICEF/NYHQ2012-2218/SUSAN MARKISZ

I never seriously want a child to be as distraught as Jessica María, pictured. But the momentary discomfort of an immunization is worth it to keep a child from suffering a vaccine-preventable death. Through my role as a Shot at Life Champion, I am joining with other Champions in an initiative called “Advocate to Vaccinate – a Coast to Coast Challenge for Global Vaccination.” During Advocate to Vaccinate, which leads up to World Immunization Week (April 24-30), Shot@Life supporters in communities across the country are raising their voices to advocate for sustaining U.S. government support for global vaccine programs.

If you are a regular visitor to my blog, you have seen the basic facts of global immunization issues among my posts before. The most basic fact is this: Every 20 seconds, a child dies of a vaccine-preventable disease. (For more details about the global health threats of vaccine-preventable diseases, visit this link….) As I have said before, I know we face serious issues here in the United States, and those are not lost on me as I advocate for children across oceans. Children here on our shores, however, are affected by global immunization deficits. For example, there have been  106 confirmed cases of measles here in the United States since January 1, 2014.

I was struck by this passage from an article by Andre Picard that I read recently about measles in Canada. The article was an interview with Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance:

(interviewer) You visit parts of the world where mothers walk for days to get their children immunized and in Canada, where it’s easy, it seems [some people] can’t be bothered.

(Dr. Berkley) The difference is that in the places where they walk for days they’ve seen their children die. They know all too well how deadly these diseases are. Parents all over the world want to help their children. If Canadian women were living in a community where, God forbid, they would see the graves of small children who died of measles every morning, they too would be clamouring, they would be doing everything in their power to get vaccines. Here the problem is invisible.

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To treat a heavy subject slightly lightly for a moment, I am also a southerner, and those of us participating in Advocate to Vaccinate are engaged in a healthy competition to be the region that does the most (including in-district meetings with our congresspeople, letters to the editor at our newspapers, community events, digital events, and blog posts, to name a few). Honestly, I want the south to win, so I am giving it all I’ve got!

Andre Picard’s article was entitled, “Indifference Leads to Outbreaks.”  I would love your help in eradicating indifference and, ultimately, eradicating vaccine-preventable diseases. Here are some ways you can help:

Visit www.advocate2vaccinate.org for more information.

Join my Twitter party which is being cohosted by @PamLovesBooks (please!) Wednesday night, April 9, from 8-9 p.m. Use the hashtag #adv2vax: Amended Adv2Vax Twitter Party Logo

Become a champion yourself! Email champions@shotatlife.org for more info.

Advocate with your elected officials to continue support for global vaccine programs (they are a fraction of our national budget and they make such a difference). Shot at Life does most of the work for you! Click here to get started.

Make a donation. A $5 donation can protect a child from polio and measles for his or her lifetime. Donate via this link.

Yes, indifference leads to outbreaks. It makes me feel like this little girl at the top of this post. Join me in eradicating indifference in order to have a healthier world. Let’s give kids a shot at life.

three women

With my fellow champions (and Florida moms) Nicolette Springer and Sili Recio in Washington, DC, advocating for Shot at Life. March 2014. We want YOUR company!