Childhood obesity, peanut allergies, attention deficit disorder, autism.
So many questions. So much drama. We still don’t know how to fully explain let alone prevent the occurrence of these disorders to name just a few of the uncertainties plaguing both public health authorities and parents alike. This uncertainty comes amidst or because of our new media overflowing with advice, experts and study after conflicting study. As a parent who writes about inconclusive scientific findings, I get frustrated too. I get it. I do. Sometimes clear answers seem elusive in the area of kid’s health and well-being. As a former researcher who spent her prime child-bearing years in a poorly lit lab, it pains me when parents say there’s nothing we know for sure.
Well here’s something the experts do know.
They know plenty about preventing diseases like pneumonia, polio, measles and diarrhea. In fact they’ve become so proficient at preventing them in the United States that we now have the luxury to forget it.
So in honor of the launch of the United Nations Foundation's Shot@Life campaign this Thursday, let me take the time to recount the things we often forget about childhood immunizations:
We forget what these diseases bring to families in the developing world. Lots of misery and death. The World Health Organization reports 1.7 million kids under 5 die every year from vaccine-preventable diseases.
We forget that childhood immunizations prevent these diseases and that too many kids still lack access to these life-saving immunizations. One in five kids, according to the WHO.
We also have the good fortune here in the US to focus not on the larger threat of measles or other serious infections and the suffering they unleash but on the small and in some cases non-existent (i.e. scientifically refuted) risks of vaccines.
Forgetting the realities of childhood immunizations are something kids the world over simply cannot afford.
So let’s please try to remember that for too many families child immunizations aren’t merely a hard decision, a fading controversy about autism, a trip to the doctor punctuating with a lollipop or even an uncomfortable encounter with a needle. Rather, they’re a shot at life. Literally.
I became a Shot@Life champion (http://shotatlife.org/) because we’ve taken for granted the lives that can be saved by childhood vaccines. It's time to remember and do something about it. I joined up, so can you.
How about you?
BTW, Happy World Immunization Week.
To join or learn more go to Shot@Life (http://shotatlife.org/). Please join me at the Celebrate Childhood Twitter party on Thursday, April 26, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. EST via #vaccineswork.