They were there to receive grassroots training on how to begin a movement. A movement to save more children from experiencing easily preventable diseases like pneumonia, polio and measles. A child dies every 20 seconds from a vaccine preventable disease. It is not the only piece in the global health puzzle. The fundamentals of infrastructure, education and cultural change are a huge part of the process. But vaccines present one of the most cost effective ways to save large numbers of children from premature death. And save them now.
A lifetime of firsts…
Remember the first smile at just a few weeks old? Oh my goodness, is there ever a more exquisite moment for a mother or father? What about taking those first steps… stumbling into loving arms across from the coffee table. The years rush forward and she’s getting ready for pre-school. Before you know it he’s losing teeth left, right and center in 2nd grade. And lo and behold someone’s fighting you for the keys to the car.
Raising and teaching children is hard, painful work. We sacrifice. We fret. We ache. But oh those firsts. Those beautiful milestones that we look for to anchor ourselves against the swift passage of months and years.
The Shot@Life Champions gathered away from their families and lives for two days to brainstorm ways to give those firsts, those precious milestones, to every child and to launch a mission. A mission of advocacy, awareness raising and yes, fundraising, to spread the word. With their first team of ordinary people ready to go back to their communities and spread the message, the Million Moms Challenge sat down to talk to Executive Director for Shot@Life, Peg Willingham.
MMC: Why do you want to reach American mothers to talk to them about vaccines?
PW: Because vaccines are important and because mothers time and time again have been a powerful engine for positive change. We know that there are mothers who want to ensure that other children have a shot at a healthy life like their children do here in the US. We know from research and experience that mothers tend to make the philanthropic decisions in fans, that mothers usually make the healthcare decisions in families and tend to make the purchasing decision in families. All of that leads them to connect with the kind of opportunity for all children that we are sharing at Shot@Life. It motivates them to engage in a variety of ways. This could be hosting a fundraiser, writing a letter to congress, buying something from a company that is supporting Shot@Life or simply sharing our Facebook page.
Shouldn’t we be putting our money into longer term solutions, like clean water, improved agriculture and changing the underlying system? Aren’t vaccines just a temporary solution?
Vaccines provide life-long protection and prevention of disease. The reality is that vaccines are one of the greatest long term solutions we have for health. Vaccinated children will learn better and their families will not have to spend their scarce resources on them when they get sick from preventable diseases. An adult displaced by war or disaster will carry their vaccines with them forever, even if they have to leave everything else behind.
There is not any other solution like it, where for a few minutes and a few dollars, you will no longer be at risk of something that can devastate you, your family, your health and your life.
MMC: Are vaccines saving children for a hopeless future?
PW: No, we are not! Healthier children will always have a better life. Even children who seem to be in hopeless circumstances right now, they are given better odds because of vaccines. If they live in a place with no doctor, and have no access to medical care, vaccines give them a much better chance of living and changing their circumstances becomes easier with health and strength.
MMC: What is the role of every day Americans in getting vaccines to all the children who need them?
PW: Americans have already done so much to save children’s lives throughout the world, supporting cost effective vaccinations programs in poor countries around the globe. We have progressed from 20% of the world’s population covered by these critical vaccines to around 80% today. We are already saving millions of lives! But we still need to reach that fifth child – that remaining 20%. That child who doesn’t yet have the access that can save money and save lives.
You can do more! You can contribute, you can advocate, you can tell the story to other people, so that we can complete the success story that has already happened.
I was just visiting the Honduras, a country that has little infrastructure and is so poor. There is no ambulance, no 911. Healthcare is limited. And yet, they have a 98% vaccines rate. And they are humble and proud of that achievement. They believe in vaccines, they want vaccines for their children. They involve everyone in the entire town from the midwife who reminds a new mother to get her child vaccinated, to the teacher who asks parents if they have you gotten their kids’ vaccines, to the police officer who may have the only vehicle in town and helps brings the vaccines in and provides crowd control. They have so little and they have made this a big priority and we want to be able to replicate this around the world.
MMC: What’s the best way for get involved with the Shot@Life campaign? What if I want to do more than just get on the mailing list?
PW: Go to www.shotatlife.org to learn more about our campaign and the many ways you can act, donate or share. There are ideas for hosting events. You can contact the campaign. We have lots of tools to make it easy for you to share the messages. No contribution is too small. We are asking for your voice, your voice, you support… to give every child a shot at childhood.