Happy World Immunization Week!

This week the international public health spotlight is on you.* World Immunization Week called and they want you to make sure everyone in your home is up to date on immunizations. Their slogan could use some bling but at least its short:

Immunize for a healthy future. 
Know. Check. Protect.

If you have done so, you can either sit back and try to get to Candy Crush Level 453 or you can do something about the 2 to 3 million people out there without access to disease-preventable vaccines, a figure that includes 1 in 5 kids around the globe. The good news, vaccines save the lives of 2.5 million kids every year.

Why spend a few minutes improving children's health rather than unlocking fictional sweets and characters? I'll give you one reason: measles.

This year the CDC has documented 129 cases so far in the United States spread over 13 states. Now that number might not sound like a lot to worry about but for every 1,000 children who fall ill, 1 to 2 die. In a community, a high school perhaps, that could be devastating.

Right now the Philippines alone has over 20,000 cases. Just Google "measles outbreaks" and you will find many recent reports about US travelers abroad coming into contact with measles, not the kind of souvenir to bring back to the kids or anyone. Last year a man sickened 21 other parishioners at his church in Texas after a trip to Indonesia. Most had not been vaccinated because the church's minister preached against vaccination.

Here's the part that should concern all of us, even those of us who have been immunized. Vaccination though highly effective doesn't fully protect everybody. As much as 5% of vaccinated children and adults can contract the highly contagious disease. So even if you follow through and get all the required immunizations, your child can still get measles. That's why it's important to keep the vaccination rates high, to achieve the unfortunately termed "herd immunity." Then there are babies who haven't yet been immunized and others people who cannot receive the immunizations due to health issues. There now is evidence of a vaccinated adult, "Measles Mary," contracting and infecting other people, including others who were vaccinated.

What You Can Do Now

1. Join the United Nations Foundations' Shot At Life campaign. I'm not a joiner by nature but it's such a great cause I've been an advocate with the campaign since its inception in 2011. Sign up. Be part of this movement to protect children worldwide by providing life-saving vaccines where they are most needed. 

2. Send your elected official an email advocating for support of global vaccine funding. Go to Shot At Life and click on the Tell Congress button. Fill in your info and press "send." How easy is that? 

3. Check out the Global Moms Relay Challenge, a campaign by the United Nations and their partners to improve maternal and child health around the world:

From International Women’s Day through Mothers’ Day–March 7 through May 11–a celebrity or community leader, from New York to Nairobi, will share a personal story of how a mom has changed his or her life, and then “pass the baton” to the next person. Read these inspiring posts and share them with friends through your social networks–each time you do, Johnson & Johnson will donate $1, up to $250,000, for each share on each network, to help moms and babies around the world stay healthy and happy. You can also Donate a Photo* once each day to help raise another $100,000.

4. Read this post by my friend Public Health Rants. Justin Bieber knows something about polar bears? Seriously, PHR, let's reframe the conversations on vaccines (and polar bears). Cute babies. Healthy babies. Laughing babies. Smiling babies.

5. Make a documentary correcting misinformation about vaccines. Or check out the high school students who've already done it. Watch the trailer for Invisible Threat courteous of my friends at Every Child By Two. 

You are now free to reach level 454 of Candy Crush. Good luck.

*And not that blonde Playboy model-cum-health expert who shall go nameless on this blog.

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