As part of World Immunization Week, we’re highlighting Shannan Younger and her experiences advocating on behalf of the Shot@Life campaign and children around the world; protecting funding for global vaccine delivery. Shannan has been active with the Shot@Life campaign since 2015, now serving as the champion leader for Illinois. Recently, Shannan got the chance to interview Dr. Orin Levine, the director of vaccine delivery at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as part of our Shot@Life Champion Summit. She is a shining example of a spirited leader in global health advocacy and we hope that her example will encourage you to support global access to lifesaving vaccines.
-Introduction by Dylan Lamberti, Shot@Life Communications Intern
How did you first become involved as a Shot@Life Champion, and what motivated you to do so?
I had seen mention of Shot@Life on social media and in a few posts by other bloggers, and wanted to learn more. I have a few friends who have children with health struggles that make herd immunity incredibly important, such as cancer and organ transplant, and that motivated me. I’ve since learned that one of my grandfathers had polio and that has made the cause even more personal.
Can you talk about what you do outside of Shot@Life, and how that ties into your work as a Champion?
In my prior life, I was a lawyer, and legislation has always been of interest to me. Now, I’m a writer focusing on the topics of health, parenting, and education. I love to tell stories, and have been in Listen to Your Mother, a nationwide storytelling event with the tagline “giving motherhood a microphone.” Finally, as a mom, I’m passionate about keeping kids healthy so they have the opportunity to fulfill their potential. Shot@Life is a great way for me to combine all those interests and put them to use. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share the incredibly compelling stories of mothers who go through so much to have their children immunized and the impact that immunizations can have on communities in developing nations as well as on us in the U.S. Those stories make it clear that the budget bill is not just about numbers but about so much more, from happy, healthy babies to national security.
What are some of the activities that you’ve done as a champion, and which have been your favorite?
The Summit every year is really fantastic. I love getting to see friends from prior years and meet new people and to feel the energy in a room full of people who come from all over but are passionate about achieving the same goal. Hill Day is always fun and the sense of empowerment that we feel when talking with lawmakers and their staff is amazing.
Meeting with my Congressman in-district was pretty great. My daughter who is in high school came with me to the meeting and it was a great opportunity for her to see firsthand how to use her voice to advocate for a cause we both care about and to know that her representative heard her.
What has been the highlight from the last summit that you’ve attended?
Hill Day is always a highlight. I shouldn’t be, but I’m always surprised at how fun it is and how much fun we have as a group. Advocacy is serious business, but it can also be fun. It reminds me of the Molly Ivins quote: “Keep fighting for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don’t forget to have fun doin’ it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth.” We do!
I know it sounds cheesy, but I’ve also loved getting to say “nice to see you again” to some of the staffers that I’ve met with several times over the past few years. It’s been gratifying to develop relationships with them and to know that Hill Day is part of an on-going conversation with them about vaccines is great.
What does participating in events supporting global childhood vaccine access mean to you?
It means a number of things to me. It means standing up for moms everywhere because every mother understands the desire to have one’s children be healthy and to see them grow up. Moms have each other’s backs, and that bond isn’t limited by borders. It also means taking a step to keep our communities safe at home, knowing that diseases don’t need passports.
Do you have any words of advice for people who may be considering signing up as a Champion, but have not yet done so?
In the words of Nike, just do it. The Shot@Life staff is wonderful, and they make participating easy. There are a number of ways to have an impact, and they offer all the information and help you need to get involved in a way that works best for you. I’d also say that a few small acts can make a big difference. Do what you can, and know that even a little effort goes a long way. You’ll be surprised at how easy it, you’ll meet some great people in the process and you’ll feel good knowing that you’re actively doing something that has wide-ranging benefits for others. It’s a win-win (or is that a win-win-win?).