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AdvocacyOctober 25, 2013

Re-Energizing my Passion for Global Immunizations Through Shot@Life

By, Colleen Mattimore

This week, Shot@Life is at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Convention and Exhibition. To highlight the partnership between AAP and Shot@Life, we bring you a post from Dr. Colleen Mattimore, a doctor who is bringing Shot@Life to families through the in-office program.

I consider myself a seasoned Vaccine Champion. For years, I have preached about vaccine safety to my office staff, my AAP chapter colleagues and local pediatricians. I have reassured parents who bring their questions and doubts to me. My car proudly wears a “Vaccines save lives” bumper sticker.

During medical students’ pediatrics rotation, I teach the history of vaccines. The lecture spans from the 1700s and Dr. Jenner’s smallpox vaccine to today’s “modern” vaccines. We discuss the past heroes of vaccine development: Drs. Salk, Sabin, and Hillman; today’s heroes, like Paul Offit, who stand up for vaccines and debunk the myths; and the incidental heroes like Bill Gates through the Gates Foundation and their contributions to vaccine progress and history.

The lecture closes with modern “urban myths” and stories of vaccine refusers and hesitators. The discussion with my students is always passionate and lively: How can parents refuse? What can we do? And, of course, there is the power of the Internet. Parents have as much access to misinformation as they do evidence-based information.

How misleading and confusing it can be. And decisions about whether or not to vaccinate are influenced by today’s “heroes”—not physicians and scientists but celebrities like talk show hosts and sports stars. Of course we discuss the travesty of Andrew Wakefield and his debunked claims linking vaccines to autism. As a pediatrician, professor, and community member, it all can be very discouraging.

Then I heard about Shot@Life. The appeal was instant. It was a collaboration of the UN Foundation, Gates Foundation, the AAP and others. Perfect. It uses the power of social media in a positive way, and, most importantly, it broadened my view of vaccines – the global impact and a stark reminder that vaccines do save lives. I read about the true modern champions of vaccines—vaccine workers trying to rid the world of polio among other preventable killers.

I brought the campaign to my colleagues and my office. My staff loves it. We have hung the posters in our waiting room. I bought the staff Shot@Life T-shirts and we wear them every Friday for dress-down day. All pay the minimum of a dollar to wear the Shot@Life T-shirts, and we donate the funds to the campaign. Parents comment on the staff “in green” and ask about the shirts. We spread the word.

Just the other day, I witnessed one of our nurses donating to the Shot@Life jug with the simple comment, “I just bought a baby a polio vaccine.” How cool is that?! I look forward to spreading this simple yet effective message in my office because, after all, all children deserve a shot at being whomever they want to be when they grow up – hopefully, more than a few will choose to be a pediatrician!