Our pediatrician explained that the reason the Whooping cough outbreak was happening with the 10, 11 & 12 year olds in our town was because it was right around the time those kids were due for their booster shots. Pertussis, known as the Whooping cough for how it sounds, is highly contagious, and presents as a persisting cough in older children and adults, but it can be deadly to babies. Pregnant women at risk of exposure are advised to be vaccinated against it. The outbreak in the schools in my town were just another reminder to me this year of how fortunate we are to have access to vaccines that protect our children from such harmful viruses.
As a United Nations Foundation Shot@Life Champion I advocate for global vaccines year round, but seeing vaccine preventable diseases popping up so close to home this year reinforces my mission to spread awareness to other moms here and abroad. Less than an hour from where we live there was also recently a measles outbreak. In the year 2,000 measles had been declared eliminated from the US, but it’s back, and that is a scary thing for a parent. Measles is a highly contagious disease, and in other areas of the world it is still one of the leading causes of death in young children. According to the CDC the past two years have seen the largest measles outbreaks in the US since the year 2,000. Communities choosing not to vaccinate are opening this country up to a resurgence of diseases that we have previously worked very hard to eliminate as risks for our children.
There are countries where vaccines are not widely available, as they are here, and mothers will walk for days with their children, and wait in long lines to get their kids vaccinated. Those mothers know first hand the deadly risk of not vaccinating their children, they see it every day. In fact every 20 seconds a child dies in this world unnecessarily from a vaccine preventable disease. We are fortunate enough to have access to vaccines in this country to protect our children from most of these diseases, yet with that security comes complacency and the urgency to vaccinate gets lost on some. What those parents need to realize is that their choice not to vaccinate their own child, unwittingly puts all other children at risk. One case of measles can quickly spread to 20 to 40 more cases, and can be deadly to some.
It is not just about keeping our own children healthy; vaccines have proven to be the best investment in global health out there. By preventing disease through vaccinations governments can save billions of dollars on the otherwise repercussions of health care costs. Healthy communities are more productive, which is good for the economy. A good economy prevents social unrest, which prevents global unrest. In other words, investing in vaccines and global health is in the best interest of us all, no matter where we live. Remember in this ever shrinking world every deadly virus is just one plane ride away. That is why World Immunization Week matters to us all. My fellow Rhode Island Shot@Life Champion Lisa Davis and I visited Congressman Langevin’s office during #WorldImmunizationWeek to ask him to support global immunization programs. You can let congress know how important funding global vaccines is to you and your family by contacting them here.