By, Cindy Levin
Now that I have tween-age kids, I’m staring to forget moments of their infancy. But something I remember well is taking them for immunization shots. Even before they could speak, my babies communicated to me how much they hated that pain. Their little eyes looked at me in what I interpreted as betrayal when I not only did not stop the pain, but thanked the nurse who inflicted it on them. There were tears to be sure and I soothed them. Because what they could not understand was that to be immunized against measles is to be given a shot, yes, as in a immunization, but also a shot as in a chance…a shot at life that many children who die before the age of 5 from preventable diseases will never have.
|Insider Images: Shot@Life trip to Uganda
For many children around the world, they will miss moments of childhood that are a direct result of having a healthy start to life. This year, 1.7 million children around the world will die from a disease that could have been prevented by a vaccine.For many children living in developing countries, access to immunizations means the difference between life and death, a healthy life or a lifetime of struggle.
Take note here because I’m going to drop some news that is among the best ever told in the history of our planet: vaccines turn the tide on these senseless deaths. For example: Polio, a disease that once claimed the lives of millions around the world—and paralyzed nearly 1,000 children a day—has now dropped 99 percent in the number of cases worldwide over the last twenty years thanks to a coordinated global vaccination effort. Until recently, India was one of the last remaining countries where polio is still present, but it just marked three full years with no new cases of polio. This significant milestone demonstrates the tremendous impact of global vaccine delivery in providing each child with more birthdays, more smiles and more steps to leading a healthy life.
Vaccines are the safest, most economical way we have to protect children around the world on a global scale. But to keep up the good news, we have to keep up our investment. Three years ago, I became one of the first Shot@Life champions with the UN Foundation, so I could speak out to Congress and urge them to support global vaccine programs like the GAVI Alliance. Since then, hundreds of champions around the country have been trained to do their part to support healthy childhood around the world. This year, we’re asking Congress for $200 million for fiscal year 2015 for global vaccines. That may seem like a big number, but it really isn’t. We have to pay this relatively small number now, or we keep paying forever if we don’t eradicate polio and measles.
By visiting ShotatLife.org, YOU can learn more about the value of vaccines and what you can do to help promote Shot@Life. Whether it’s writing a letter to your local representative, hosting a fundraiser with your friends, or making a donation—just $5 will protect a child from polio and measles for his lifetime—the individual acts add up to make a big difference.
My kids may not remember their childhood vaccines, but they have provided us with protection against deadly disease—and more importantly, a lifetime of wonderful memories that will stay with us forever. Every child needs this chance, no matter where they are born. Join the growing movement of childhood supporters who believe that every child deserves a shot at a healthy life and the many beautiful milestones that come with it.